As a Mountain Sports professional with 30 years in the high mountains behind me, I have seen changes in the high mountains that I find difficult to comprehend. Irreversible changes to an environment that I took for granted. An environment that reached a sudden and irreversible tipping point, the Alps surpassed the global goal for limiting global heating to 1.5C (reaching an average over 2C) around a decade or more ago.
There have been drastic changes in the mer du glace over the past few decades. (ph.World economic forum/powuk)
Over the years, I have watched with growing concern, as the extremes become more extreme and more common, crazy temperature changes, violent weather events, massive rockfall, dramatic Ice loss, Snow loss, drought followed by flooding and more. Slopes that we rode, faces that we climbed, classic summits that we scaled, once with out too much concern, became inaccessible, out of condition and increasingly dangerous.
Tignes ‘skiing 365 day a year’ this was the tag line for Tignes as I grew up. I used to race train on the extensive Glacier during the summer months. Today it looks like this. (ph POWUK)
Climate and environmental changes are becoming hard to ignore. You don’t need to look hard or far to find the facts that support and explain the scientific reasons behind our global heating process these days, and whilst some might say that you can find theories against everything you read to explain a natural process of climate change, no national or international scientific body has opposed man made climate change in over 10 years and increasingly dramatic and frequent apocalyptic climate events fill our news feeds every day.
I moved to Chamonix in 1995, the Ice of the mer de glace was at around this level. As a guide, I used to teach Ice climbing somehwere around here in the summer months. (video mcnabsnowboarding)
Like many, I struggle daily with the knowledge of what I’ve seen and how I live, fighting a contradiction to how I know I need to live and how I actually live. I am aware that within my lifetime (global heating has been predicted and studied for over 100 years already!) the planet that I live on has already massively changed forever.
The man made destruction of our natural World, for a perceived, better level of comfort, financial stability and social well-being, is destroying the delicate balance of life on our planet, but I live in the knowledge that we can do better (we need to do better our very lives and those of future generations rely on it) and the word is spreading.
I take small solace in the fact that my teachings and shared experiences within the high mountains, one of the planets last untamed wildernesses where nature still governs our actions, helps inform an active and passionate, nature loving community of like minded people of the changes that lie before us, and in doing so I help to spread the word and in my own small way start to sow the seeds of change both mentally and physically that we will need for the rocky climb ahead and I have formed an alliance with Protect our winters UK in order to educate myself as to the changes I can make.
Whilst traveling to and simply being in the high mountains might seem a contradiction to climate action, this environment can teach us so much and make us appreciate the need for action. Its a matter of balance and positive action. (ph mcnabsnowboarding)
Through the Paris climate agreement, globally we are in the process of trying to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees C, with an outside limit target of 2C. Already at 1.5C we are destined to loose much of the biodiversity that we have come to take for granted and that keeps our planet ticking.
At 1.5C, coral reefs die, along with the diversity of sea life that lives and is supported by these once thriving environments, icecaps, glaciers and sea ice melt, raising sea levels and changing global sea currents endangering the life that relies on them and weather patterns and temperature variations become more extreme and more common.
scary images of glacial ice loss in Alaska (ph USGS/powuk)
These are things we already see happening before us, changes to our planets natural balance that are the direct result of our actions against nature… and yet we continuously raze and destroy our global Forrests and woodland as if its an endless resource, killing the bio diversity of life that exists there (an essential part of the cycle of life our planet relies on and that we still don’t fully comprehend) and changing the weather patterns and essential atmospheric composition that rely on the dense plant life we take away,
At our current rate, we are heading far beyond the 2C that is seen as the high end cap before life for humankind as we know it changes irreversibly, and yet current global forecasts for our use of climate heating air pollutants are set to increase year by year into the unforeseeable future.
To avoid reaching a catastrophic global tipping point, we basically need to each reduce our current personal average 12/13Tons of CO2 (fig based on UK consumption) to Zero by the latest 2040 and if possible, to really make a difference, within the next 10 years!
Changing how we each live our lives personally, what we eat, how we travel and the source of energy we use, can make a big dent in this figure and this is were we should start, but globally change needs to come from the top down.
Fortunately, as individual consumers and voters in a democratic society, we again get to have a say and so our individual voice amongst the many can make a difference on a larger scale too.
Our planet is being destroyed by us and for us in ways far excessive to our needs, mostly for the financial benefit and comfort of those who should know better and are in the position to do something about it!
Those that should know better?
Yeah, unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) “those who should know better” is in fact us!
Fortunately change comes from within and ‘we’ can make a difference.
We can start by reducing out intake of the things we don’t need and the things that are produced in unsustainable ways and support the companies and products which we feel will make a positive difference. We can start too educate ourselves into the impact of each product we purchase, consume or use and start to reduce our own individual carbon footprint, which at the same time reduces demand for these unsustainable practices on a global scale.
Guilty as charged! In the 90’s I endorsed the single use plastic bottle industry through sponsorship. If only we’d known were it was all heading? I guess we should have known, but I was as ignorant to Climate change and plastic polution, as many were back then.
The process of buying a single use plastic bottle, for example, supports, sponsors and justifies the production of this item. Whilst we might think pollution is a completely different problem, the production of virgin plastic and the industry behind it, is a major contributor to our global heating problem. With fresh drinkable ‘tap’ water so abundant in most of the western world, shouldn’t we ask ourselves, “do we really need a new plastic bottle, every time we want a fizzy drink or a drink of water?” Do we even need water in a plastic bottle, does a reusable bottle and water filter not make more sense? And yet the bottled water industry is huge, a major contributor to our global plastic pollution problem and a major supporter of virgin plastic production.
Simple personal choices can add up to big global change, some choices are pretty easy to make and sustainable living is becoming easier as more and more companies begin to support it with their practices and products.
What we buy, what we consume, how we travel, how much and how often?
There are numerous ways to immediately start reducing our individual impact and the advice, suggestions and solutions can be found everywhere.
On a bigger level, we can choose to offer support to local, national and international programs pushing for the changes that we agree with and that are pressuring industry, governing bodies and even Governmental change and again these are numerous and gathering momentum everyday.
As a Snowboarder and outdoor athlete seeing drastic changes in my environment, guilty of environmental ignorance in my past, I have chosen to start educating myself to the cause and effect of this crisis and my actions, by forming an alliance with “Protect our Winters” in the hope that I can learn more and in some way help make a difference and help spread the word of change.
There are always going to be contradictions to contend with, as someone that works in the mountains for example, travel is a big part of my life. Travel has a high Carbon footprint, especially flying, but even here, there are ways to reduce and offset this and start to find a balance. Cutting out long haul flights, reducing the frequency of short haul flights, stay longer in location, car share, travel by train, by bike, by Splitboard.
We’re not going to be able to drop to Carbon neutral straight away, we’re going to have to live with some of this contradiction but at the same time make the best choices we can. The information is out there to help us find better solutions and to start reducing our impact and the time to get started is now.
Although many sources give 2050 as the Net Zero deadline, if we really want to keep to the global 1.5C threshold (that keeps life as we know it possible), we need to vastly accelerate our actions and start work on reducing our personal Carbon Footprints now. It’s time to educate ourselves as to the changes that we can and need to make and share our findings with others, we’re not going to get the planet to net Zero alone, but together we can make a big difference.
Scientists have been aware and studied the risks of accelerated man made Global heating through fossil fuel use since the late 1800’s. amazing montage showing the difference over 100 years of warming in Svalbard. The high elevations and Northern and Southern extremes show the effects of Global heating in dramatic fashion. (ph Andreas Weith wild commons/powuk)
Ultimately, we’re going to need direction change and support from the powers that be, but that isn’t going to come without us first raising our individual awareness, voicing and sharing our concerns and together demanding the change.
The good news is that we can choose to make a difference, the info is out there, the movement is growing rapidly and from a small seed the might Oak can grow.
Together we ‘can’ ‘Protect our Winters’ so visit the POW UK website and get involved.