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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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climate change

Will we recognise the future?

Every time I drive up the hill from Harrietville to Mt Hotham, I feel a strange mix of joy and sadness. Its always good to get back into the mountains. But those burnt out alpine ash forests break my heart.

People will often say ‘fire has always been part of the landscape’. True. But that misses the point that fire intensity and frequency is already increasing as we lurch into the climate change influenced future. In my lifetime it has already transformed many of the landscapes I know and love best. What will the coming decades bring?

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#ClimateWhiteout: climate change and the Winter Olympics

The Winter Olympics are underway in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Climate and winter sports advocacy groups have been using social media to highlight the expected impacts of global warming on future Winter Olympic sites.

This is not a new story, but research that shows that climate change is likely to make nine former Winter Olympics sites too warm to host the Games again has been circulating using the hashtag #ClimateWhiteout.

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Which resorts have been most impacted by climate change?

The Climate Council has released a report which outlines the likely impacts of climate change on tourism in Australia.

The section on the snow sports industry confirms what we already know: that climate change will have significant impacts on the economics of the sector, with resulting loss of jobs and local businesses. It highlights the fact that despite attempts to broaden activity at ski resorts into the ‘green season’, a large proportion of income is still derived during winter and hence there are limitations to how resorts can buffer against bad winters.

In Victoria, Mt Stirling and Mt Buller have been most affected by shorter ski seasons.

Continue reading “Which resorts have been most impacted by climate change?”

Lake Tahoe Resort to run on 100% Renewables

Next winter, Squaw Valley Ski Corporation, who have two resorts at Lake Tahoe in California, plans to source all its electricity from solar and other renewable sources. This will make it the first ski resort in the USA to power its operations without fossil fuels.

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Outdoor industries ‘taking on global warming when our country isn’t’

The biannual Outdoor Retailer trade show in the USA is an enormous event. This year it has relocated to Colorado in protest at the state government of Utah supporting moves by the Trump administration to gut protection for federal conservation reserves. This shift marks a growing willingness to act to protect wild lands.

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‘Ski resorts cling on against climate change’

Mountain Journal often covers developments in the snow industry relating to climate change – both in terms of the expected impacts of global warming on snow and resorts, and positive responses by resorts to reduce their emissions.

As we know, action here in Australia by resorts is sketchy at best and most are still in denial about the reality of the change that is coming.

This recent piece by Bob Berwyn from Deutsche Welle (Germany’s international broadcaster) looks at the limitations of relying on artificial snow making as a buffer against climate change. Looking mostly at Europe, the key message is really just common sense – it will be the lower altitude resorts that will be hit first. That’s directly applicable to the reality that Australian resorts face given our low elevation mountains and moderate latitudes.

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Park City has pledged to reduce it’s carbon footprint to zero by 2032

Climate change is bearing down on us. The threat posed to people, economies and natural ecosystems is of a level only surpassed by the risk of nuclear war. For those of us who love mountains and winter, the threat is obvious enough: shorter, more erratic snow seasons.

While here in Australia we face a dwindling snow pack, it’s the same story in ranges around the world. For instance, in the Northern Cascades National Park, which contains 1/3 of the glaciers in the Lower 48 states of the USA, the glaciers have lost a half of their mass over the past century. Since 1955, the mountains of the western ranges of the USA have lost 23% of snowpack.

This is having a direct impact on local economies. Low snow seasons in the western USA between 2000 and 2010 cost the ski industry more than US$1B in lost revenue.

Many resorts and individual players in the snow industry have been stepping up and joining the fight against climate change. Park City in Utah is one of the latest.

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Mount Stirling in 2030 – Draft for Consultation

Mt Buller and Mt Stirling Resort Management and the Mount Stirling Stakeholder Group are preparing a contemporary vision for the Mount Stirling Alpine Resort. Mount Stirling 2030 is a vision that reflects community and stakeholder aspirations, celebrating the social and environmental values of the mountain and addressing challenges of climate change.

Mt Buller Mt Stirling Resort Management seeks your feedback on Mount Stirling 2030, which is being prepared to guide future management decisions for the Mount Stirling Alpine Resort.

The consultation period is open between Monday 18 December 2017 and 5pm Sunday 21 January 2018.

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Telluride aims for a carbon neutral target

With Donald Trump winding back climate action at home, seeking to reopen coal mines, restart offshore drilling and withdrawing from the international climate agreement, many US states and cities are stepping up and taking action to reduce their emissions.

There are many inspiring stories from across the USA that have emerged since Trump’s election. But there are also decades worth of excellent and determined work in many cities and towns. The recent decision by the Town Council of Telluride in Colorado to “adopt a goal for the entire community of becoming carbon neutral” comes on the back of more than a decade’s efforts to reduce emissions.

Telluride is a former mining town in the south west of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. It is located in a remote part of the state, in a dramatic canyon surrounded by peaks and is now famous for its skiing. Resort towns are often famous for extravagant lifestyles, but permanent residents often live with a much lower carbon footprint than ‘fly in, fly out’ visitors.  It has a permanent population of about 2,500 and a large amount of tourist and holiday accommodation (you might enjoy the mockumentary ‘The Lost People of Mountain Village’, which takes you through the ‘lost landscape’ of the purpose built Mountain Village, located very close to Telluride, which is often largely deserted outside of peak holiday season).

Telluride has a long history of working to reduce the impact of it’s carbon emissions. Recently Alec Jacobson of Mountain Independent, wrote an excellent summary of the town’s efforts since 2006, which is available here.

With the growing number of regional towns in north eastern Victoria working to reduce their emissions through community action and good policy, I wanted to share some of the learnings from the Telluride story as I understand them.

Continue reading “Telluride aims for a carbon neutral target”

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