Mountains matter: stand up against climate change

Posted by Hanna Lindon on 23/11/2015
Glaciers like this one are under threat from global warming. Photo Fedor Selivanov/ Shutterstock.

The upcoming climate summit in Paris is a chance for us to highlight the disproportionate effect of climate change on mountainous areas. Here’s how you can help.

At the end of November, nearly 120 world leaders - along with thousands of delegates and environmental activists - will descend on Paris for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21). The aim is to attempt to impose binding global restrictions on the emission of carbon dioxide, with the ultimate goal of keeping global warming below the 2C threshold identified by scientists as disastrous for the health of our planet. So what does this mean for those of us with a passion for peaks? 

Mountain meltdown

The roof of the world isn’t immune to the effects of climate change - if anything, the rise in temperature is having a greater impact on the world’s mountains than anywhere else. Changes in rainfall, melting permafrost and the increasing number of extreme weather events are endangering the survival of mountain peoples; specialised mountain plants and animals are struggling with altering conditions; and rapidly melting glaciers are threatening water sources and regional security. That’s before you even get started on the more frivolous (but, to many of us, crucially important) impact on our sport: the prospective loss of Alpine climbing, European ski touring, and even the deterioration of limestone crags thanks to increased rainfall.  

Is it really our problem?

In a recent article for Summit, Kevin Anderson argued that climbers and mountaineers are contributing to the problem rather than helping to protect these fragile uplands.

“We no longer get to the crag, the hills or the occasional alpine trip by cycling, the train, thumbing a lift, or cramming four sweaty oiks and their kit into a mini clubman,” he wrote. “Now it’s the powerful estate car, the flashy hatchback, the Suburu 4WD or the moronic SUV. Worse still, the crag is often now far beyond the local outcrop, it’s a drive to Malham, a motorway marathon to do the Three Peaks or a bit of Munro bagging, a long weekend in Calpe, a week at Smith Rocks or a rapid ascent of some alpine peak. We take our litter home, the cars have catalytic convertors and we may even fall for the scam of ‘offsetting’ our flight’s emissions. But all this is conscience-salving crap.”

We should, argues, Kevin, be stopping to seriously consider the globalised impact of our adventures on the poor and vulnerable and taking steps to safeguard the future of the mountains we all love so much.

So what can we do?

Radically reducing our energy usage by flying and driving less, sharing vehicles and using public transport is an excellent start - but it’s only part of the picture. We also need to be ensuring that our voices are heard by those in power, and that’s the opportunity we have now in the run-up to COP21.   

The BMC has signed up to several initiatives aiming to highlight the devastating effects of climate change in the mountains. Paramount among these is a ‘Declaration on Mountains and Climate Change for COP21’ prepared by the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA) alongside the Mountain Partnership and other experts. It calls for the governments meeting at COP21 to recognise the impact of climate change on mountain regions in their negotiations and emphasises that these areas are under particular threat.

You can help by signing the Mountain Partnership’s petition on change.org. It asks the key players at COP21 to acknowledge that mountains are often fragile and easily damaged eco-systems; recognise the spiritual, recreational, cultural and economic importance of these regions; and introduce urgent measures to improve the lives of mountain peoples and safeguard mountain eco-systems.

Will they listen? That remains to be seen. But it’s up to us to give our mountains and their residents a voice.   
 


The Access and Conservation Trust

The BMC's charity  the BMC Access & Conservation Trust  promotes sustainable access to cliffs, mountains and open countryside by facilitating education and conservation projects across the United Kingdom and Ireland.

By educating climbers, hill walkers and mountaineers to enjoy outdoor recreation while minimising their impact on the landscape, conserving the UK’s upland resources, and campaigning for improved access rights, ACT enables future generations to continue to enjoy outdoor activities and the physical, mental and social benefits they bring to individual lives and society in general.

READ: More about the recent work of ACT

WATCH: the Mend Our Mountains: Make One Million campaign film


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Anonymous User
21/11/2015
I agree with Kevin. And presumably so does the BMC or it wouldn't have written this article. So why are the BMC AGM and local Area meetings routinely held in places almost inaccessible by Public Transport? Being serious about Climate Change does mean changing the way we act and road transport is a big element of UK CO2 contributions.

We, the UK, produce about 2% of World CO2 emissions. But we're only about 1% of the planet's population. So, we emit double 'our share' and that share is what's got us into trouble in the first place. Atmospheric CO2 levels are now 40% above pre-industrial levels, still rising, and at an increasing rate despite decades of 'promises' to do something. We are now faced with having to actively remove about 20% of the CO2 currently in the atmosphere, if we wish to keep the Ocean's Carbonate Compensation Depth at a sane level.

I have every sympathy for the peoples in the mountains, but I'm afraid they, like the people in Bangladesh, many Pacific Ocean islands and nearer home, the coastal flats of the Hebrides, are going to see their way of life destroyed. Closely followed by most of the rest of us.
Anonymous User
22/11/2015
So easy to sign a petition. No real effort required and no cost, not even a stamp needed. But what about making a real difference? How many of us have stopped flying. How many of us now use bus or bike or walking instead of the car to get to crags? How many of us find challenges nearer home rather than thousands of miles away? Why do we think it's great for mountaineers to holiday in Antarctica, probably the worst example of excess carbon dioxide production? Why did so few use the Sheffield Stanage bus that it has been cancelled? Why does the Stanage Partnership tout car parking stickers rather than some more environmentally friendly approach?

Why?

Because we don't really care. We're too selfish individually to take any of the inconvenience or pain. We're too scared collectively to accept the consequences for what we say we believe in.

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