Kellianne Sirianni May 14th, 2018
Climate change is defined as “the significant change in climate conditions attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere” (Simon-Lewis, 2018). This human activity includes the use of fossil fuels for electricity, transportation, and other industry activities (“Climate Science and Solutions”, n.d.). These fuels pollute the atmosphere through the production of greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, that warms our atmosphere faster than what would naturally happen (“Climate Science and Solutions”, n.d.). These gases, once produced, can remain trapped in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, resulting in drastic changes in temperature, humidity, wind, precipitation, and other variables (Simon-Lewis, 2018 and “Climate”, n.d.). For over 800,000 years, carbon dioxide and surface temperatures on Earth were at stable, patterned levels. In more recent years, due to human fossil fuel use, our atmospheric CO2 levels have surpassed historic levels (“Climate Science and Solutions”, n.d.). We have already begun to see the effects of climate change.
The global temperature has increased by 1.7F over the past century and is expected to raise 11.5F over the next century (“What is Climate Change?”, 2014 and “Climate Science and Solutions”, n.d.). The past decade has been the warmest on record causing hurricanes, floods, heat waves, droughts, and wildfires to become more frequent and more powerful (“Climate Science and Solutions”, n.d.). Sea levels have increased 7 inches over the past 100 years due to the melting of the Arctic sea ice and land ice (“Climate Science and Solutions”, n.d.). These rising sea levels contribute to: greater storm damage; warming ocean temperatures that cause stronger and more frequent storms; excessive rainfall that causes flooding and other damage; an increase in the frequency and severity of wildfires; and extreme heat waves. (“What is Climate Change?”, 2014).
The outdoors industry supports 7.6 million jobs and generates $887 billion in revenue; winter sports alone is responsible for over 690,000 jobs and produces $72 billion annually (“Climate Science and Solutions”, n.d.). According to Protect Our Winters, “this massive sector of the U.S. economy generates more in consumer spending than the fossil fuel industry, and the snow sports industry alone employs more people than extractive industries in the United States” (“Climate Science and Solutions”, n.d.). Over 20 million people participated in winter sports for the 2015-2016 season, adding over $20 billion of profit to our economy via ski resorts, hotels, restaurants, bars, grocery stores, and gas stations (“2018 Economic Report”, n.d.).
The winter sports industry and community is dependent on heavy snowfall but climate change has become a threat contributing to warmer winters, reduced snowfall, and shorter snow season. Snowfall amounts directly correlates to how many people head to the slopes. No snow means no snowboard, skiing, or snowmobiling resulting in job losses and reduced revenue for resorts, states, local communities and businesses (“Report: Climate Impacts…”, n.d.). These abnormal weather patterns have also increased drought, flooding, and extreme heat, all of which impact the outdoor economy. (“Climate Science and Solutions”, n.d.). The $12.2 billion snow sports industry over 38 states have already experienced $1 billion loss in revenue and 27,000 lost jobs in the last decade due to lack of snow (Thompson, 2012).
Ski resorts are forced to be innovative by improving their sustainability efforts, reducing their own carbon footprint, and adapting their business models to work with low-snowfall seasons (“2018 Economic Report”, n.d.). Many resorts are becoming more and more dependent on industrial snowmaking machines to create artificial powder (Berwyn, 2018). Industrial snowmaking is just a Band-Aid to the issues of melting snow and ice. With the industry becoming more man-made, comes more pollution and more emissions of greenhouse gases just for the industry to survive (“Winter Sports Face…”, 2018).
When professional snowboarder Jeremy Jones realized there was no organization advocating for climate change he felt the need to act and founded Protect Our Winters in 2007 (“About Us”, n.d.). Protect Our Winters, also known as POW, was created to lead the way towards positive climate action on behalf of the winter sports community. POW has become a social movement, bringing together professional athletes, individuals, ski resorts, and other winter industry brands to take action against climate change (“About Us”, n.d.).
Protect Our Winter’s overall goal is to advocate for climate change solutions that reduce the use of fossil fuels and the production of greenhouse gases. The main focus areas include: setting an economy-wide price on carbon, transitioning to a clean, solar energy economy, and utilizing innovative transportation solutions to reduce emissions (“Climate Science and Solutions”, n.d.). POW’s long-term goal is to make renewable energy the sole source of the U.S.’s energy consumption.
Protect Our Winter’s unites and mobilizes the snow sports community through educational initiatives, political advocacy, and community-based activism. One of the educational programs is “Hot Planet, Cool Athletes”. POW has teamed up with The North Face and Clif Bar for in-school assemblies led by professional athletes (“Our Work”, n.d.). These assemblies have educated over 45,000 North American students about the issue of climate change and inspire them to take action to help (“Our Work”, n.d.).
Since President Trump was elected to office, climate change has become an even more controversial issue. President Trump has notoriously denied the existence of climate change and has stacked his administration with other climate change skeptics. On June 1st of 2017, President Trump announced that he was taking the United States out of the Paris Agreement, in effect as of November 2020 (“Paris Agreement”, 2018). The Paris Agreement was created to bring nations together to combat climate change and adapt to its effects (“U.S. Withdrawal…”, 2017). With the United State’s withdrawal from the agreement it will make it more difficult for developing countries to mitigate and adapt to climate change (“U.S. Withdrawal…”, 2017). Throughout the year POW urges lawmakers at both the state and federal levels to support climate policy and climate issues. The organization has participated in over 15 climate marches throughout North America and Europe to raise awareness and support the fight for climate change (“Our Work”, n.d.). POW hopes to convince President Trump and other government officials to rejoin the Paris Agreement so we can move our nation forward and not backwards (“Trump Bailed…”, 2017).
Community-based activism is another important aspect of Protect Our Winter’s and programs include the Outdoor Industry Climate Leadership Summit and the POW Riders Alliance. The leadership summit brings together industry CEOs and executives to discuss how their businesses are influencing climate action and what steps they need to take for the future (“Our Work”, n.d.). The Riders’ Alliance is made up of 60 professional athletes who are committed to being leaders in environmental activism (“Riders Alliance”, n.d.). POW provides them with a platform to impact and influence the snow sports industry and community.
Climate change has become one of the most important global issues in our world today. It has already affected us presently and has the potential to drastically impact our future. I believe it is extremely important that we all take action to stop the extreme effects of climate change. If we continue to pollute our atmosphere with fossil fuels we will continue to see temperatures raise, abnormal weather patterns become even more extreme, and we may completely lose our winter season. As someone who is passionate about snowboarding, it is critical that we fight to save the winter sports industry from the drastic effects of climate change. When I first heard of Protect Our Winter’s I was excited about an organization making a global impact to protect my passion. I have since joined POW and donated to the cause in hopes that their efforts will change the future for the slopes. Winter is changing, the climate is changing, and we need to start changing too.
2018 Economic Report. (n.d.). Retrieved May 2, 2018, from https://protectourwinters.org/2018-economic-report/
About Us. (n.d.) Retrieved May 2, 2018, from https://protectourwinters.org/about-us/
Berwyn, B. (2018, January 12). Ski Resorts Cling on Against Climate Change. Retrieved May 2, 2018, from http://dw.com/en/ski-resorts-cling-on-against-climate-change/a-41972961
Climate. (2018, April 30). Retrieved May 2, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate
Climate Science and Solutions. (n.d.). Retrieved May 2, 2018, from https://protectourwinters.org/climate-science-and-solutions/
Our Work. (n.d.). Retrieved May 2, 2018, from https://protectourwinters.org/our-work/
Paris Agreement. (2018, May 02). Retrieved May 2, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_Agreement
Report: Climate Impacts on the Winter Tourism Economy in the United States. (n.d.). Retrieved May 2, 2018, from https://protectourwinters.org/climate_report/
Riders Alliance. (n.d.). Retrieved May 2, 2018, from https://protectourwinters.org/riders-alliance/
Simon-Lewis, A. (2018, February 06). What is Climate Change? The Definition, Causes and Effects. Retrieved May 2, 2018, from http://www.wired.co.uk/article/what-is-climate-change-definition-causes-effects
Thompson, J. (2012, December 06). Report: Tough Times for U.S. Winter Tourism Industry if Climate Change Goes Unaddressed. Retrieved May 2, 2018, from https://www.nrdc.org/media/2012/121206
Trump Bailed on Paris. What’s Next? (2017, June 12). Retrieved May 2, 2018, from https://protectourwinters.org/trump-bailed/
U.S. Withdrawal from the Paris Agreement: Reasons, Impacts, and China’s Response. (2017, September 27). Retrieved May 2, 2018, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1674927817301028
What is climate change? (2014, July 11). Retrieved May 14, 2018, from http://www.takepart.com/flashcards/what-is-climate-change/
Winter Sports Face a Double Threat, from Climate and Demographic Change. (2018, January 27). Retrieved May 14, 2018, from https://www.economist.com/news/international/21735602-industrys-response-making-it-worse-winter-sports-face-double-threat-climate.)