Auden Schendler is well known to many skiers and riders as being a key figure in snow industry efforts to move towards sustainability. He is the Vice President of Sustainability at the Aspen Snowmass resort in Colorado.
Just before the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C report was released, Auden co-authored an opinion piece in the New York Times with Andrew P. Jones. Given Auden’s pivotal role in the snow community, I thought it was worth sharing some excerts from it here which underscore the political challenge we face if we are serious about resolving the ‘climate problem’. The full article is available here.
Auden and Andrew say:
“On Monday, the world’s leading climate scientists are expected to release a report on how to protect civilization by limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. Given the rise already in the global temperature average, this critical goal is 50 percent more stringent than the current target of 2 degrees Celsius, which many scientists were already skeptical we could meet. So we’re going to have to really want it, and even then it will be tough.
The world would need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions faster than has ever been achieved, and do it everywhere, for 50 years. Northern European countries reduced emissions about 4 to 5 percent per year in the 1970s. We’d need reductions of 6 to 9 percent. Every year, in every country, for half a century.
We’d need to spread the world’s best climate practices globally — like electric cars in Norway, energy efficiency in California, land protection in Costa Rica, solar and wind power in China, vegetarianism in India, bicycle use in the Netherlands.
We’d face opposition the whole way. To have a prayer of 1.5 degrees Celsius, we would need to leave most of the remaining coal, oil and gas underground, compelling the Exxon Mobils and Saudi Aramcos to forgo anticipated revenues of over $33 trillion over the next 25 years.
And while the air would almost immediately be cleaner and people healthier, the heartbreaking impacts of climate change — flooding in London, New York and Shanghai, as well as in Mumbai, India; Hanoi, Vietnam; Alexandria, Egypt; and Jakarta, Indonesia, to touch on just one consequence — would continue for decades, regardless of emissions cuts, because of the long life of man-made greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere.”
Of course, there is growing awareness that the IPCC report, dire as it is, probably radically under estimates the real impacts of climate change. This is for a range of political and process reasons (including the need for the document to be a consensus document that is acceptable to all parties involved in its production).
Check the recent Breakthrough Institute paper ‘What Lies Beneath’ for a critique of the IPCC reporting process.
There is an ongoing debate among climate scientists and activists about how to communicate the climate message and hence mobilise people. We know that facts are not enough to move people to action. But should we use fear or hope? A recent report on the psychology of climate action (Don’t mention the emergency, by Jane Moreton) argues that rather than taking a simple path of encouraging hope (or the less useful options of guilt and helplessness) we should be evoking anger and courage in the people we are trying to reach.
Mountain Journal has covered the existential threat posed by climate change to mountain environments (and the economies and cultures that rely on mountains) from its inception. Resort skiing and riding is very energy intensive and its hard to be inspired by any of the Australian resorts when it comes to meaningful climate initiatives. There is a short list of some positive initiatives here. And now we have an Australian chapter of Protect Our Winters (POW), which is already helping to galvanise the snow sports community.
But we all know that we need to do more – much more – and soon.
Rather than offering another list of what individuals, resorts, and brands should be doing, I might just finish with the conclusion from Auden and Andrew’s opinion piece. Perhaps solving the climate crisis isn’t just a problem that we need to fix. Maybe its also something deeper – about who we are as a species and how we might decide to share this planet in a crowded and hot century:
“There should be no shortage of motivation. Solving climate change presents humanity with the opportunity to save civilization from collapse and create aspects of what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called “the beloved community.” The work would endow our lives with some of the oldest and most numinous aspirations of humankind: leading a good life; treating our neighbors well; imbuing our short existence with timeless ideas like grace, dignity, respect, tolerance and love. The climate struggle embodies the essence of what it means to be human, which is that we strive for the divine.
Perhaps the rewards of solving climate change are so compelling, so nurturing and so natural a piece of the human soul that we can’t help but do it.”