The are big scientific meetings and little scientific meetings. Big scientific meetings, where the attendees number in the thousands, are important for cities that have a significant tourism industry. So it’s interesting to read this note from the Society for Neuroscience, a meeting that regularly draws tens of thousands of scientists every year (boldface mine):
The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) has announced its schedule for future annual meeting city and dates through 2021. The rotation returns to a three-city pattern, alternating between San Diego, Washington DC, and Chicago. New Orleans, which had been tentatively included in the roster previously, has been removed from the cycle.
The SfN Council, the Society’s board of directors, concluded that the integrity of scientific exchange at the annual meeting, which is central to the SfN mission, is at unacceptably high risk in New Orleans given a fall meeting during hurricane season. During deliberations following Neuroscience 2012, the SfN Council discussed several factors. One was the vital function of the annual meeting, which is one of the world’s largest scientific meetings and typically draws more than 30,000 attendees from more than 75 countries for unique scientific exchange and networking. Council also weighed the Society’s deep appreciation for the city of New Orleans and its experienced convention services and the attendant risks of a hurricane during or near SfN’s fall annual meeting. This risk was highlighted by damage experienced by contracted hotels following Hurricane Isaac, a Category 1 storm that hit New Orleans in August, seven weeks before the 2012 annual meeting. It became clear to the Council that a storm of greater intensity or closer to the meeting dates could seriously jeopardize SfN’s ability to recover and execute a meeting consistent with its mission and member obligations. The Council’s discussion was difficult and thoughtful, and the resulting Council vote was not unanimous.
This sort of problem will only get worse as global warming gets worse and we get more extreme weather. It’s not just limited to hurricane-prone places either: ski resorts are getting hammered as ski seasons start later and later due to warmer temperatures. I realize in the grand scheme of this, tourism is pretty small beans, but it seems that the effects on tourism are a very present and tangible effect of global warming.