Bonnaroo, a leader in green fests, faces climate change risk

Festivalgoers are seen during Bonnaroots, a four course meal that benefits global organizations for hunger, presented by Eat for Equity at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival on Thursday, June 16, 2022, in Manchester, Tenn.

Kristin M. Hall

Manchester, Tenn. — Since its debut on a rural Tennessee farm two decades ago, the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival strived to be one of the country’s greenest music festivals, investing in recycling, composting, solar energy and other improvements.

But last August Tennessee received the highest 24-hour rainfall ever recorded in a non-coastal state, resulting in deadly flash flooding that killed 20 people. Additional rains leftover from Hurricane Ida dumped more water on the area in subsequent days. The Bonnaroo campgrounds were waterlogged and roads impassable, forcing organizers to cancel.

Climate experts say festivals like Bonnaroo and similar outdoor live events are more vulnerable than ever to unpredictable and extreme weather. Preparing for those events remains a huge challenge.

While man-made climate change has only slightly increased Tennessee’s weather, experts predict that the state will experience historically unprecedented warming in this century. Warmer air contains more water and heavy rainfall is one of the hallmarks of climate change.

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