POW UK is mobilising the UK outdoor sports community to make positive choices on climate change. POW UK believes that by mobilising an engaged community we will make a difference.
We engage people and corporates through their winter sports livelihoods and passions, educate them on the risks of climate change, empower them to take effective action and encourage and support them to do so. POW is all about helping people to make more positive choices, making climate change action personal, fun, inclusive and effective.
There is overwhelming consensus on climate science. But in the mountains we know it is real because we see it. We see it in different winter weather conditions and we see it with glacial retreat. Many European and North American summer ski destinations on glaciers are having to shut early or not open at all now.
The main control knob on the global temperature is the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide, or CO2. The more CO2, the hotter the Earth gets. Sure, there are other factors but CO2 is the big driver.
Since the industrial age, when we began burning fossil fuels, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 has gone up by 40%, from a level of 280 parts per million to 400 parts per million, mainly as a result of mankind’s burning of fossil fuels. This may not sound like a lot but is actually huge – imagine if your body temperature went up 40%, or the level of alcohol in your blood went up by 40%. Not only has the overall level of CO2 increased massively, the rate of increase has been much faster than under natural processes, around 60 times faster.
The global climate is changing, with the Earth on a warming trajectory mainly caused by greenhouse gas emissions from human activity. Most of the warming has occurred in the past 35 years, with 16 of the 17 warmest years in the 136-year record all occurring since 2001. The year 2016 ranks as the warmest on record, with warming levels of 1.3°C relative to the 1880 to 1920 mean. Current symptoms of this level of temperature increase include profound glacial retreat around the globe, extensive loss of coral reef ecosystems and a rising number of extreme weather related events.
Although it doesn’t sound much we are already seeing significant impacts as the 1°C is the average temperature increase across the surface of the globe, some parts of the globe get much hotter and there are impacts on things like the water cycle, resulting in more frequent flood events. What we are seeing now is huge changes in winter conditions, with more temperature volatility, significant glacial retreat, significant coral reef death (due to the fact that most of the warming has gone into the sea) and many more extreme weather events, heatwaves such as Lucifer in Southern Europe in 2017 and so called ‘500 year’ storms like Hurricane Harvey. The heatwaves are causing huge forest fires – the summer of 2017 saw extensive wildfires in Canada, Greenland (!!), Southern Europe and Russia.
Another risk is sea level rise. This takes longer to happen though as things like ice caps need to melt and nobody is really sure how quickly that might happen. Scientists estimate current levels of global warming, that’s the 1°C, are consistent with sea level rises of 6m to 9m, which would put large parts of many major coastal cities underwater.
No. Sadly if we continue to emit more CO2 the temperature will continue to go up. A hotter Earth will lead to more impacts like those we are seeing now, but worse. What is really worrying is that if we don’t manage to keep global warming below 2°C, then it is very likely that we will be unable to stop further global warming as large and irreversible changes, such as the melting of the polar ice caps may be triggered. Needless to say, but this would be very bad for more than just snowsports.
In the Western World it is very hard not to be part of the problem. Nearly everything we do involves emitting carbon and most of the products we buy are made in ways that produce carbon. Of course, the annual ski trip is another source of carbon emissions and we strongly encourage people to think about ways they can reduce their footprint on their ski trip, such as taking the ski train to the alps rather than flying.
The good news is we have the solutions to climate change. The increasingly rapid deployment of renewable energy sources and their rapidly decreasing cost means we genuinely have a viable alternative to fossil fuels – we just need to implement these solutions as quickly as possible. We have also have an unprecedented global agreement (the Paris agreement) whereby all the countries of the world came together in 2015 and agreed to take measures to limit global warming. Not only this, over 100 of the world’s largest companies are fully on board, companies across a range of sectors such as Apple, Unilever, Goldman Sachs, Ikea, Starbucks and Sky have all committed to moving their operations to 100% renewable energy.
The good news is we have the solutions to climate change. The increasingly rapid deployment of renewable energy sources and their rapidly decreasing cost means we genuinely have a viable alternative to fossil fuels – we just need to implement these solutions as quickly as possible. We have also have an unprecedented global agreement (the Paris agreement) whereby all the countries of the world came together in 2015 and agreed to take measures to limit global warming. Not only this, over 100 of the world’s largest companies are fully on board, companies across a range of sectors such as Apple, Unilever, Goldman Sachs, Ikea, Starbucks and Sky have all committed to moving their operations to 100% renewable energy
Start with food, transport and energy – clean those up by eating less meat & local food, using low carbon transport options wherever possible and switching to a renewable energy supplier.
Once you have done this, check out out green & blue runs – where you will have most impact is likely to depend on who you are and what you already do.