In 2007 Jiminy Peak installed a $4 million 1.5 megawatt (MW) wind turbine on the mountain. (Jiminy Peak)
Seeing the damage wrought by Tropical Storm Irene in Vermont and learning about the ravages of Sandy, Harvey, Irma, and Maria to say nothing of the heat waves and the fires on the nightly news, I was struck by the rapidity and rise in extreme weather events.
Given the great debate on whether climate change is real, “Earth’s Changing Climate” is enlightening. In the course, Middlebury College Professor Richard Wolfson, Ph.D., explains a complex subject so the layperson can understand what is happening.
"The temperature rise itself will not spread evenly over the globe; for example, it will generally be greater over land and at high latitudes. Extreme events, such as heat waves, intense precipitation, and droughts will be more frequent, and storm intensities will likely increase,” Wolfson says.
One of the impacts of temperature rise, he notes in 2007, is the “likelihood of extreme events.”
Wolfson’s Energy, Environment, and Climate (2017, W.W. Norton) emphasizes climate change is an energy-related environmental issue.
The ski industry appears to agree as seen by energy-efficient snowguns, the use of alternative energy sources (cow power, wind, solar), a reduction in plastic use, and a first-ever carbon-neutral World Cup commitment at Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows via a solar project offset.
“Overall, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows feels that it’s our duty to preserve our environment for generations to come. As leaders, it’s our responsibility to question everything we do, to never settle for “the way it is,” and to help guide our industry into a future we believe in,” spokesman Sam Kieckhefer said.
There’s a lot at stake with climate change, including a $62-billion ski industry supporting over 950,000 winter tourism-related jobs in the US. The threat, here and elsewhere, is warmer, drier winters with the possibility of multi-year droughts forcing resorts and small businesses to close.
Both the 2014-15 western snow drought and the 2015-16 eastern drought affected skier visits. The northern hemisphere has lost a million square miles of spring snowpack since 1970.
The past decade has been the warmest on record, with 2014, 2015, and 2016 setting “record highs for the average global temperature. This is the first time in the record, which goes back to the 1850s, that there have been three record years in a row,” Wolfson told SnoCountry.com.
“Because We All Need Winter” POW
As a member of The Protect Our Winters (POW) Riders Alliance, big mountain pro skier Ian McIntosh is one of 60 skiers and riders committed to environmental leadership and fighting climate change. They work to educate the public and talk to thousands of school students each year about how they can make a difference.
McIntosh commented, “We see glaciers receding so we pay attention because it’s our livelihood. In Alaska I’ve seen glaciers recede hundreds of yards every year. … Temperatures are warmer. …California had a serious water drought. Greenland is melting. It’s supposed to be cold and snowy, but the ice shelf is turning into rivers and lakes. . . . The Arctic is seeing big temperature swings. The ice and permafrost are melting, releasing methane gas, which is worse than carbon. … We’re in big trouble.”
“The average person doesn’t see this,” McIntosh added of his “unique niche” that allows him to experience climate change impacts in his travels.
He also sees solutions, noting, “Germany is 90 million people and their power comes from clean energy, solar and wind, despite being cloudy there.”
Founded by snowboarder Jeremy Jones in 2007 to protect the powder “pow” he loves, POW now has branches in the UK, France, Austria, Finland, Sweden and Norway. POW’s mission is to “mobilize the outdoor sports community to lead the charge toward positive climate action.”
Learn more about how you can become involved at www.protectourwinters.org.