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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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climate change

Environmental week at Thredbo

Environmental week is an annual event that happens at Thredbo resort in NSW which is ‘dedicated towards driving awareness to our guests, community and beyond about all of our environmental initiatives in place and what we can all be doing as a community to protect winter and Thredbo’.

It will happen from July 22 – 28, and features talks and presentations, a hike to Mt Kosciuszko, and a fund raiser for tree planting.

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Thredbo is powered by Renewable Energy

Climate change poses an existential threat to winter as we know it. It  is already having a negative impact on Australia’s mountain ranges (for instance, snow pack has been in decline since the late 1950s). It will also impact on the businesses that rely on good winter snow. At present the Australian snow industry generates more than $1.8 billion a year and employs more than 18,000 people. Yet under current greenhouse scenarios, climate change could cut Australia’s ski season by more than two months. If we don’t start to slow down climate change, it means the end of skiing as we currently know it.

There are three response which are required to this threat if ski resorts want to have a hope of long term viability: they need to act to mitigate (or reduce) their greenhouse gas emissions). They need to adapt to the changes that are already locked in (for instance through investing in snow making equipment or highlighting their ‘green season’ activities). And hopefully they will also use their business and political power by advocating for all levels of government to take meaningful action on climate change.

In what is being described as ‘an Australian snow industry first’ (1), Thredbo resort in NSW has announced that it has signed a deal that will ensure that ‘all its major resort operations are now powered by renewable energy’ provided by Red Energy.

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This is what climate change looks like

Yes, Australia does have erratic winters.

Yes, the forecast was suggesting that the season would start late and be mediocre to average.

And yes, we just had two awesome winters, so we would have been very lucky to have three in a row.

But the first month of winter 2019 has been the sort of winter you would expect under climate change scenarios.

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Victoria’s best chance to lead on climate action

Climate change poses an existential threat to the mountains and winter environment that we love and rely on. In Australia, winter snow is already in decline, and has been since 1957.

And climate scientists keep warning us that we are running out of time to cut greenhouse emissions and head off future climate impacts. With the Coalition being re-elected, Australia now has no leadership on climate change (and our carbon emissions continue to soar), so we need everyone to put their shoulder to the wheel.

With the failure of the federal government to act, there is a huge need for the states to continue their work on energy policy. In the ACT, the Government has legislated a target of sourcing 100% renewable electricity by 2020. States around the world, from California to Colorado to New York are also showing leadership and setting deep emission reduction targets and high renewable energy targets.

And now we have a fantastic opportunity to see Victoria take the step towards transforming its energy system and economy. We have just four weeks to send in submissions to the Victorian government on the state’s first interim Emissions Reduction Targets. The state government must announce targets for 2025 and 2030 by March next year. Targets which are based on climate science, rather than what is deemed ‘politically expedient’, will drive down emissions and start the transition from coal to renewables.

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POW info night at Hotham

Sunday September 8.

The Snow Bird, Hotham Central, 6.30 – 9pm.

Protect Our Winters (POW) is mobilising the outdoor sports community against climate change. It was founded by the legendary snowboarder Jeremy Jones and is active across North America and Europe. POW is now taking off in Australia.

Come along to this session to hear what’s happening, how you can support POW, and how to get involved. All welcome.

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Climb8: 700 kms across the Alps on snowshoes

Climb8 will be a long distance snowshoe expedition planned for the 2020 winter.
It aims to cross 36 summits, visit 8 ski resorts and carry out climate change research along the way.

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In the chaos, it’s important to remember the good stuff

Regardless of who wins the federal election, life will go on, and winter snows are getting closer. But it is still easy to get depressed about the chaotic state of federal politics, and the appalling lack of action on climate change that we have witnessed under the current Coalition government. Fires burnt large areas of the mountains this summer, there are ongoing attempts to allow commercial developments in national parks and other wild places, and feral horses have, in effect, been given protected status in Kosciuszko national park. Faced with ever more intense fire seasons, the forests are getting younger as we get older.

As the saying goes, ‘if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.’ And, if you’re paying the slightest bit of attention to the natural world, then it’s normal to feel constant Solastalgia.

So, its important to hold hope and to pay attention to the good things that are happening. As Outside magazine recently reminded us, being out in nature is good for our bodies and also our emotional health. And there are also many good developments affecting the places that we love.

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Adventurers for Climate Action

Anyone who spends time in wild nature knows that climate change is already impacting on the places we love. While for decades the primary political work of outdoor enthusiasts was to campaign for the protection of wild places through the creation of national parks and other reserves, now we need to also respond to the existential threat posed by unbridled climate change.

Older groups are shifting their focus to include acting on climate. For instance, the Wilderness Society, which has led so many campaigns to protect wild landscapes here in Australia, now has a strong focus on climate change. The wintersports group Protect our Winters (POW) is doing valuable work mobilising the skiing and riding communities and focusing them on decision makers.

Now another outdoor focused group – Adventurers for Climate Action – brings together the combined efforts of 10 organisations.

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‘The cure for depression is action’

In March this year, I sat on the summit of one of my favourite hills, Mt Blowhard, and watched the fires just to the south, which were in the Dargo River valley and burning up onto the Dargo High Plains. Already a mosaic of burnt and reburnt forest, now characterised by the grey trunks of burnt trees, I knew that this would be another wave of impact on these mountain forests. Some parts of north east VIC have now burnt more than three times in a bit over a decade. Scientists warn about the loss of alpine ash and snow gum if the frequency of fire continues to increase.

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