Climate change and the BMC

Posted by Catherine Flitcroft on 27/03/2007
A melting world?

Climate change is currently at the forefront of political and public debate. On 1st December 2005, DEFRA launched the first phase of a new campaign to raise public awareness and change attitudes to climate change.

A key focus is to encourage communication at different levels with the slogan "tomorrow's climate, today's challenge". Recent reports on climate change, and its implications for the world's glaciers, bring worrying news for mountaineers.

  • Glaciers in the European Alps have lost 30-40% of their surface area and approximately half their volume since the mid-1800s.
  • 10-20% of the remaining volume has been lost since 1980.
  • The length of the snow season and the snow amount in the Swiss Alps has decreased substantially since the mid-1980s
  • Since the late 1980s, warming of alpine permafrost indicates acceleration by a factor of 5 to 10.

Looking at the future, climate models predict:

  • Global surface temperature will increase 1 - 5' C by 2080.
  • Greater warming is expected at higher latitudes, and greater increases are expected in winter than in summer.

The BMC role
For the BMC, the nature of our activities and responsibilities as a national representative body is a complex issue. The BMC has a significant interest in preserving our mountain environment and wildlife. With temperatures predicted to rise over the next 80 years this could lead to a change in the range, composition and location of important habitats and species in these sensitive environments.

Similarly, coastal habitats and access to the coastal resource may be under threat with sea level rise expectations, and hotter summers may mean more people are seeking to access these changing but still wild environments. Can we expect an increased threat to our mountain and cliff environment as the threat of fire and public safety increase?

These are just some of the issues that the BMC is facing trying to tackle the climate change issue. Unfortunately, global warming is not the result of a single factor and is set to intensify crucial social, environmental and economic factors. To try to address some of these issues the BMC has developed an Environment Policy. This policy has been developed to ensure the BMC can fully demonstrate its environmental commitment to both its Members and other interested parties in order to ensure our Members interests are not prejudiced through inaction in this area.

We are currently in the process of considering new initiatives to address climate change (carbon offsetting schemes etc.) and are working with other organisations that are tackling climate change at a local, regional, and national level (e.g. England's North West Climate Charter). The BMC office will also endeavour to minimise our environmental impact reducing waste production wherever feasible (re-cycling waste materials, reducing vehicle mileage by forward planning of routes, using public transport, car sharing whenever possible etc.)

Windfarms and the BMC
The BMC has also developed a statement clarifying its position on windfarms in designated and valued landscapes. This statement has yet to be adopted as a formal policy and your comments would be very welcome (to cath@thebmc.co.uk)

What can you do?
The BMC are keen to preserve our wild spaces for future generations to enjoy. Climbing, hill walking and mountaineering that we know and appreciate today, the unspoilt natural environment that we often take for granted, will change completely if we don't do something. 

  • Start to count your annual carbon output and seek ways to reduce it. Check out www.fairsharesfairchoice.com
  • Eating locally produced food is one way of saving carbon and helping rural communities and economies as well – a truly sustainable act!
  • Use public transport initiatives
  • Try to combat your carbon footprint each time you get on a cheap flight, however before considering carbon offsetting be clear about its value. The Carbon Trust – a Government funded body to promote carbon management and low carbon technologies has a well-argued position on this. See www.carbontrust.co.uk/carbon/briefing/offsets.htm.

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