climate change

Mark Beaumont – The Making of a Hero


 “You’ve just got to decide you’re never going to stop”

These were the words from POW UK ambassador Mark Beaumont when asked how he achieved the incredible feat of cycling around the world in under 80 days (78 days, 14hrs & 40 minutes to be precise), breaking no less than two world records and raising the bar significantly in the world of ultra-endurance cycling.

Inspired by Jules Verne’s classic adventure novel Around The World In Eighty Days, Mark began his journey in Paris on 2 July and cycled an average of 16 hours (240 miles) a day, and only slept for five hours each night. He cycled through Europe, Russia, Mongolia and China, before reaching Australia and New Zealand. He returned through North America before “sprinting” through Portugal, Spain and France. It’s hard to express quite what an extraordinary achievement this is – for most people, cycling 100 miles would be a major challenge! Succeeding in cycling around the world in 80 days has not only redefined the limits of endurance sport, it has made the previously impossible, possible.

But what’s that got to do with climate change you may ask? Actually, quite a lot.

Making the Impossible, Possible: Turning Concern, Commitment, and Confidence into Success

Mark Beaumont - Arc de Triomphe
Mark Beaumont – Arc de Triomphe

Remember the four-minute mile? There was a time when many believed that it was impossible for humans to run a mile in under four minutes. Runners had been trying to break this barrier since the late 1800s. Then, in 1954 Roger Bannister ran the mile in 3 minutes 59.4 seconds. A month and a half later, John Landy ran even faster. Now, it is broken routinely.

I can’t think of a better example of the immense power of human psychology and the manifestation of belief. In the words of William Arthur Ward, “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it”. Conversely, self-doubt is often the single greatest barrier to success.

In a piece to camera for POW UK, just before his expedition, Mark talks about the parallels between his approach to the challenge, and the psychology behind something as overwhelming as climate change. It’s his conviction that if we are concerned enough about something, we will commit to the preparing for the challenge at hand. The more we prepare, the more our confidence grows that we can succeed, and once we believe we can succeed, nothing can stop us.

Why Doom and Gloom Just Creates More Doom and Gloom

The attitude that leads to ground-breaking achievements like these is so far removed from the doom and gloom scenarios we’re so used to hearing on the news. Climate Change, The War on Terror, Global Conflict – not only are we constantly bombarded with negative news stories, but they are also nearly always presented in a way that’s big, scary, and insurmountable. I don’t know about you but it certainly doesn’t motivate me to get off the sofa and do something positive. I’m more likely reach for a tub of ice-cream and the nearest box-set. It’s incapacitating in its negativity.

But what if we all took a bit of Mark’s incredible can-do attitude and just decided we’re never going to stop. Ok, so we’re not all going to become athletes, but if we believe in something and commit to its cause, we have immeasurable strength in numbers. We can achieve anything. It may not happen overnight, but if we are concerned enough to make one change at a time, committed to taking positive action, and have the confidence to drive it forward, then the ripple effect will be unstoppable.

I can already hear the climate deniers and eternal pessimists muttering about this being hippy dippy nonsense. Try telling that to Mark Beaumont, I dare you!

Ever felt like being a hero? Well now you can be.

Join me and let’s commit to taking positive action to Protect Our Winters!




Steep decent, no fall zone climate change

Commit, you’re in the no fall zone!

With the global climate now around 1 degree warmer, we are now in the no fall zone for climate change and the very future of snow sports. As my guide used to say, commit, you’re in the no fall zone! You fall here, you’ll die.

These pictures show the speed of glacial retreat at Tignes, one of Europe’s best-known summer skiing locations:

Grand Motte summer 2013, glacial retreat. No fall zone.
Grand Motte summer 2013
Grand Motte summer 2017, glacial retreat. No fall zone.
Grand Motte summer 2017

Snowsports – on the front line of climate change

Snowsports are on the front line of climate change. In the cold and wild places, climate change is very real – it’s happening, now and quickly. There is profound glacial retreat around the globe, snowfall patterns are more erratic and high-temperature volatility during winter means less consistent snow conditions. In North America, witness the tragic news of the cancellation of the world famous Whistler Camp of Champions this year due to glacial retreat in a high snowfall season. In Europe, the extensive glacial retreat and early closure of summer camps.

Les Bossons Glacier, Chamonix - Glacial retreat 2004 -2017

In the No Fall Zone

Remember that tingly feeling you get when the guide turns around and says in a gravelly French accent (at least in La Grave or Chamonix), “no fall here, you fall you die.” You remember the massive cliff you are traversing over, that space sucking at you. Hell, it’s a flat traverse, why’s my heart beating like this, why am I nervous? Then you remember that sweet and massive field of untracked powder…the fierce joy that comes with ripping through it with your friends…the fact that you can actually ski or snowboard. Take a deep breath, focus, off we go – BOOM!

powder field
Power field

Commit, or die

Helps you focus doesn’t it, that ‘you fall, you die’ stuff? Well, that’s where we are with climate change peeps, staring over the cliff. If we fall, certain death, if we don’t, good times. So take a deep breath, buckle up, remember the POW and commit. The good news is we have all the tools we need to tackle climate change by getting off fossil fuels – increasingly cheap renewable energy sources and electric cars. The bad news is that we’re not moving quickly enough, so we need to do more or no-one is going to be doing many powder turns in the future.


Concerned? You should be. We know this is a big, scary, global problem that our governments and big business should be held accountable for – as individuals we often feel voiceless and powerless. That’s where POW comes in. We will guide you through the science and actions that we all, as a UK winter sports community, can take to drive effective change on climate change. Together, we have a louder voice and stronger impact. Together, we can take positive action to make a real, difference.

Let’s make change happen together and protect our winters for future generations.

Join Protect Our Winters.

inconvenient sequel climate change

#BeInconvinient: Al Gore and Theories of Change

Climate Reality’s screening of ‘An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power’ was followed by an in-depth panel discussion on August 16th.

Al Gore’s second acclaimed documentary on climate change prompted an evening that questioned theories of change, power, and what’s best for our planet today.

Engaging with politics and social movements can be overwhelming. From endless Facebook posts and rants to overheard conversations at the gym, places once used as a refuge to block out the weight of the world are no longer immune to the discussion. For many – including the whole POW UK team – the mountains have always been that comforting escape. But with the ever-growing climate crisis, it appears that now more than ever, our winters are threatened by climate politics even more than our social media timelines.

As a relative newbie not only to the Environmentalist scene but also to the general forum of ‘International Politics’, nothing could have helped me navigate my own thoughts on climate change better than watching ‘An Inconvenient Sequel: Bringing Truth To Power’ screened at Paramount Pictures’ HQ in London last week (in partnership with The Climate Reality Project).

Admittedly, a quick Google search before attending gave me some background on who Al Gore actually is. Serving as Vice President of the United States from 1993 – 2001 under President Bill Clinton, the man’s insight into real-life democracy goes without saying. But what really inspired me about Gore – whose mission to confront the climate crisis serves as the thread of the documentary-movie itself – is the way in which he so carefully, strongly and effectively uses his voice to inspire change. Even if you’re not an ex-Vice President, that’s something that any of us can do if we make that choice.

“If anything, ‘An Inconvenient Sequel’ highlights our own duty to Protect Our Winters now – simply by getting involved in the issue.”

The film comes as a sequel to ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, released back in 2006. Sprinkled with terrifying and emotional examples of the climate crisis in catastrophic action around the world, we followed Gore’s ambition – from his Tennessee ranch to Paris via India and beyond – in placing the environment at the top of any and all political agendas.

What effects me most about this issue is the complicated mechanisms and puppetry going on behind the scenes in nations around the world – and the multitude of vested interest that can block progress. At a political level, systems are always at play, but ‘An Inconvenient Sequel’ was clever enough to fairly acknowledge (almost) all of them while continuing to ask the simple question of what’s wrong and what’s right for our planet today.  

The film doesn’t come without criticism, however. An impressively engaged audience discussion followed the screening last week, within which one individual (a senior representative of IKEA UK, in case you’re wondering) felt disappointed by how the film slightly missed the individual perspective. Of course, it’s the nation states and global corporations that can really act to make an immediate impact – but that’s not to say that individual decisions aren’t as important as we continue to confront the climate crisis globally.

A brilliantly ambitious panel discussion was programmed to close last weeks event, within which the byline for the film: ‘Bringing Truth to Power’ was explored. This too proved problematic, with the panel chair questioning whether ‘taking truth to power’ really was the best theory of change – especially for those in low positions of power themselves.

Renewable energy sources and projects, the role of the media, international brand responsibility and more were topics of discussion to follow. But perhaps one of the most poignant – and hopeful – points to be raised was that of our own ability to transcend the climate crisis beyond a political conversation and into a social movement. The everyday person’s power to make informed choices, and eventually create a tipping point for this huge problem, does exist. If anything, ‘An Inconvenient Sequel’ highlights our own duty to Protect Our Winters now – simply by getting involved in the issue.

An easy way to that is by learning more about the politics of climate change – and one of the best things about this film is that you don’t need to have watched the first one. Give it a try. Then I challenge you not to start thinking about and wanting to make better everyday choices for the environment – at whatever level.

‘An Inconvenient Sequel: Bringing Truth To Power’ is in selected UK cinemas now.

Join 3.17 million people by following Al Gore on Twitter

Learn more about The Climate Reality Project here:

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ice core climate science

The three-minute story of 800,000 years of climate change…


Ice cores are a window into the past hundreds of thousands of years. 

ice core
Ice Core

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Ludovic Brucker

Ben Henley, University of Melbourne and Nerilie Abram, Australian National University

There are those who say the climate has always changed, and that carbon dioxide levels have always fluctuated. That’s true. But it’s also true that since the industrial revolution, CO₂ levels in the atmosphere have climbed to levels that are unprecedented over hundreds of millennia.

So here’s a short video we made, to put recent climate change and carbon dioxide emissions into the context of the past 800,000 years.

The temperature-CO₂ connection

Earth has a natural greenhouse effect, and it is really important. Without it, the average temperature on the surface of the planet would be about -18℃ and human life would not exist. Carbon dioxide (CO₂) is one of the gases in our atmosphere that traps heat and makes the planet habitable.

We have known about the greenhouse effect for well over a century. About 150 years ago, a physicist called John Tyndall used laboratory experiments to demonstrate the greenhouse properties of CO₂ gas. Then, in the late 1800s, the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius first calculated the greenhouse effect of CO₂ in our atmosphere and linked it to past ice ages on our planet.

Modern scientists and engineers have explored these links in intricate detail in recent decades, by drilling into the ice sheets that cover Antarctica and Greenland. Thousands of years of snow have compressed into thick slabs of ice. The resulting ice cores can be more than 3km long and extend back a staggering 800,000 years.

Scientists use the chemistry of the water molecules in the ice layers to see how the temperature has varied through the millennia. These ice layers also trap tiny bubbles from the ancient atmosphere, allowing us to measure prehistoric CO₂ levels directly.

Antarctic temperature changes across the ice ages were very similar to globally-averaged temperatures, except that ice age temperature changes over Antarctica were roughly twice that of the global average. Scientists refer to this as polar amplification (data from Parrenin et al. 2013; Snyder et al. 2016; Bereiter et al. 2015).
Ben Henley and Nerilie Abram

Temperature and CO₂

The ice cores reveal an incredibly tight connection between temperature and greenhouse gas levels through the ice age cycles, thus proving the concepts put forward by Arrhenius more than a century ago.

In previous warm periods, it was not a CO₂ spike that kickstarted the warming, but small and predictable wobbles in Earth’s rotation and orbit around the Sun. CO₂ played a big role as a natural amplifier of the small climate shifts initiated by these wobbles. As the planet began to cool, more CO₂ dissolved into the oceans, reducing the greenhouse effect and causing more cooling. Similarly, CO₂ was released from the oceans to the atmosphere when the planet warmed, driving further warming.

But things are very different this time around. Humans are responsible for adding huge quantities of extra CO₂ to the atmosphere – and fast.

The speed at which CO₂ is rising has no comparison in the recorded past. The fastest natural shifts out of ice ages saw CO₂ levels increase by around 35 parts per million (ppm) in 1,000 years. It might be hard to believe, but humans have emitted the equivalent amount in just the last 17 years.

How fast are CO₂ levels rising?
Ben Henley and Nerilie Abram

Before the industrial revolution, the natural level of atmospheric CO₂ during warm interglacials was around 280 ppm. The frigid ice ages, which caused kilometre-thick ice sheets to build up over much of North America and Eurasia, had CO₂ levels of around 180 ppm.

Burning fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas, takes ancient carbon that was locked within the Earth and puts it into the atmosphere as CO₂. Since the industrial revolution humans have burned an enormous amount of fossil fuel, causing atmospheric CO₂ and other greenhouse gases to skyrocket.

In mid-2017, atmospheric CO₂ now stands at 409 ppm. This is completely unprecedented in the past 800,000 years.

Global Temperature and CO₂ since 1850.
Ben Henley and Nerilie Abram

The massive blast of CO₂ is causing the climate to warm rapidly. The last IPCC report concluded that by the end of this century we will get to more than 4℃ above pre-industrial levels (1850-99) if we continue on a high-emissions pathway.

If we work towards the goals of the Paris Agreement, by rapidly curbing our CO₂ emissions and developing new technologies to remove excess CO₂ from the atmosphere, then we stand a chance of limiting warming to around 2℃.

Observed and projected global temperature on high (RCP8.5) and low (RCP2.6) CO₂ emission futures.
Ben Henley and Nerilie Abram

The fundamental science is very well understood. The evidence that climate change is happening is abundant and clear. The difficult part is: what do we do next? More than ever, we need strong, cooperative and accountable leadership from politicians of all nations. Only then will we avoid the worst of climate change and adapt to the impacts we can’t halt.

The ConversationThe authors acknowledge the contributions of Wes Mountain (multimedia), Alicia Egan (editing) and Andrew King (model projection data).

Ben Henley, Research Fellow in Climate and Water Resources, University of Melbourne, University of Melbourne and Nerilie Abram, ARC Future Fellow, Research School of Earth Sciences; Chief Investigator for the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes, Australian National University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Camp of champions Glacial retreat

On the frontline of climate change

Camp of Champions Closes

We were crushed to hear the news on Thursday that Ken Achenbach has been forced to close  Camp of Champions (‘COC’) in Whistler, B.C., due to lack of snow coverage and the shrinking Whistler Blackcomb glacier.

In an open letter published on Facebook, Ken wrote a heartfelt apology to his customers expressing his deep sorrow for the decision, which is sadly beyond his control and likely irreversible.

Ken explains: “To give you an idea of how much melting has happened the last few years, in 2015 alone the glacier lost 35 vertical feet of ice. Last year, the entrance to the entire glacier had to be moved 40 feet lower. … I haven’t slept in a week. After 28 years my dream is over. Honestly, I want to crawl under a rock. I feel like I have died. Camp is my life…. but global warming has decimated the glacier and our ability to run a summer camp.”

What makes this even harder to bear is the knowledge that this is likely to be the first of many such stories we’ll be reporting. Glaciers around the globe are melting at an unprecedented rate, whilst the likes of Donald Trump are claiming that climate change is a hoax. Sure, the rest of the civilised world may be sane enough to disagree, but we’re still not acting fast enough, and unless we do, we may not be left with any glaciers left to fight for.  

Part of the reason we’re so passionate about acting on climate change with such urgency is that it’s happening before our very eyes. Whereas some, like President Trump and his cronies, see it as some elaborate dystopian conspiracy, the snow sports community is at the very front line of climate change . We’re seeing glaciers melting, high-temperature volatility during winter and ever more erratic snow conditions. Just the other day, we posted a before and after photo of the Glacier des Bossons in Chamonix to our Facebook page. The post prompted a lively discussion, and it was interesting to note that some pointed to the change of season in the photos as a reason behind the difference in the size of the glacier. It was a reasonable assumption to make but the sad reality is that whatever the season, the glacier is getting smaller.

This was also the case at COC, where it wasn’t so much the snowfall (the US had a bumper season) but the loss of glacier length and depth that caused the camp to close. Weather is short term and changeable, such a big snow winter whereas climate is long-term trends. Sadly this is not isolated, glaciers worldwide are moving backwards rapidly as POW UK ambassador Ed Leigh says “the changes we’re seeing now in the mountains are undeniable” and these are the canaries in the mine for our species.

Les Bossons Glacier, Chamonix - Glacial retreat 2004 -2017

Astonishingly, there are still those who continue to deny climate science. For a species whose civilisation is built on science, this is more than remarkable, it’s bare-faced lunacy. Imagine for a moment your feet start swelling and you start to feel intense pain. You go to the doctor who tells you that you have gout and need to cut back on the red wine and cheese. That’s not what you want to hear – you like red wine and cheese, so you go to another doctor. If you went to 100 doctors and 99 of them gave you the gout diagnosis, would you believe the one who didn’t? Of course not. In fact, you would be likely to question the professionalism of the one doctor who told you to crack on with the rich food and booze. Climate change denial is that one doctor.

For those of us who love winter – whether for the winter sports, the joy of building snowmen with children, sledging, glaciers or polar bears – this is a call to action. If we do not rapidly accelerate the pace of change to a low carbon economy, winter sports as we know them will be a thing of the past, not just impacting the priceless memories of millions of future holiday makers, but also decimating the winter sports economy. The wider environmental impacts on the natural systems which support our civilisation don’t even bear thinking about.

Concerned? You should be. We know this is a big, scary, global problem that our government and big business should be held accountable for – as individuals we often feel voiceless and powerless. That’s where POW comes in. We will guide you through the science and actions that we all, as a UK winter sports community, can take to drive effective change on climate change. Together, we have a louder voice and stronger impact. Together, we can take positive action to make a real, difference.

Let’s make change happen together and protect our winters for future generations.


World Environment Day

Today is World Environment Day.

This year’s theme, ‘Connecting People to Nature’, implores us to get outdoors.  To appreciate nature’s beauty and to think about how we interact with and depend on it. It challenges us to find fun and exciting ways to experience and cherish this vital relationship.

To celebrate, we’ll be releasing a short film later this week to remind ourselves just how much children get out of the great outdoors. Remember your first ski holiday, or the look on your kid’s face when he or she built their first snowman. When they whizzed down their first slope? These moments are priceless – let’s keep them that way for future generations.

And here are some ideas for how you can celebrate World Environment Day:

(Yes, we know half-term is only just over and it’s a Monday, so if today is a stretch, plan something over the weekend instead):

  1. Get outside. Take the kids to the park to feed the ducks, maybe pick up some litter on the way. Use the opportunity to talk your kids about the environment (there are some great child-friendly resources out there) and set yourself nature challenges such as naming three types of trees or plants 
  2. Get active. cycling, hiking, running, or just kicking a football around the park. There are so many ways to enjoy the outdoors that don’t cost a penny. So put the smartphones and iPads away and make the most of nature’s playground
  3. Get planting. Kids love getting their hands dirty and being part of something creative. If you live in the city and don’t have a garden, why not do your bit to green the urban environment by planting a window box? 
  4. Get creative. Take photos or get the kids to draw their favourite nature scenes. Share your photos and videos onto the World Environment Global Album. If your children are a little older, encourage them to start a scrapbook and learn about the environment, or contribute to a science project with the app iNaturalist.

Join us, become a POW UK Winter Warrior. Watch this space for more information and resources. In the meantime, focus on the little things. Educate yourself on climate change, make changes to reduce your carbon footprint (ditch the car and walk or cycle, eat less meat, recycle), and share your knowledge with the kids and friends. Most of all, take the time to appreciate nature and mother earth. She’s the only one we’ve got!

paris accord

Keep Paris Now What?

Yesterday, President Trump announced that he is withdrawing the U.S. from the landmark Paris Climate Accord, demonstrating a deeply unfortunate combination of ignorance, short-termism and vested interests. As outdoors people we are closely linked to the environment and recognise the critical importance of maintaining it in good working order – the risks to the human species of climate change cannot be overstated – we think history will judge Mr Trump very badly. Furthermore, with the rest of the climate-conscious world now decarbonising (states, countries, companies, investors, individuals and the financial community), we believe that Mr Trump’s rationale is completely wrong – the direction of travel is very much sustainable and he has now increased the risk of the US missing out on the economic opportunity this presents.

 It's like the smallest. This small.
Protect Our Winters UK is 100% committed to using every available tool to we have to engage, educate, empower and encourage the outdoor sports community in the UK to take effective action on climate change. We will redouble our efforts to drive positive actions on climate and believe this is doubly important now – when leadership is absent on critical issues like climate change, then individuals must step up. We believe that by mobilising an engaged community we will make a difference. Come and join us.