It's funny how at this time of year we all get a bit exited at the prospect of holidays, parties, drink and, for the lucky one's, a trip to the mountains. And what a start to the snowy season!! I'm sure you, like me, build up the anticipation by keeping a watchful eye on the Chamonix web cams and Seb's snow reports. Although I will be doing the gentle slopes of Sweden's Salen this year, I have been watching in awe as the Alps get their fair share of the beautiful white stuff. Two things have struck me though: one, I need to get my wax out, and two, it seems the climate sceptics are trying to make a comeback.
You will have undoubtedly seen that 2008 is on course for being a cold year, and the snow on the ground may be some proof of that, but this doesn't mean climate change is a myth to be busted. If anything it just shows us what life used to be like – local anecdotal evidence may not be peer reviewed but it offers a great local perspective. When I talk to the locals in my current homeland; Sweden, I get the same response – 'it's not what it used to be and the snow is unreliable'. If I look at the general data for the Swedish mountains from 1960 to 1990 they have observed almost a 2 degree rise!
Last week our leaders in the EU agreed to make a 20% reduction in CO2, by 2020. Although the final agreement was watered down and the current financial crisis was used by many as an excuse of taking limited action, it is still a significant step forward and should be welcomed. A cold 2008 will be wheeled out as an excuse not to do anything, but the reality is things are getting worse. We know the hottest years ever on the temperature record have been recorded in the last decade, we also know that glaciers are moving uphill. What is just coming out though is that we have pushed our natural carbon absorbers to the limit; new data suggests that the Oceans have lost 16% of their capacity to absorb atmospheric carbon!
Does this mean you should stay in this year and stop breathing, as the climate sceptics would suggest is the only option? Not really, unless you like that kind of thing. I would make the most of the snow, but also try and make conscious decisions i.e. car share or bus around Cham etc. Ultimately, it is our small actions multiplied by the millions who do it that will have a big impact, not just grand decisions made by our leaders. If there is anything we should take into 2009 it is that we can make a difference. If we do maybe the start to the 2008 season will return to being the norm again.