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Climate change, an over-reaction?
Monday November 17, 2008 - Email this article to a friend

PlanetSKI raises a few questions.

It’s near impossible to open a newspaper or watch a news programme without hearing about climate change. Some people think the Green issue has turned into a bandwagon with everyone jumping on and its become an unstoppable juggernaut.

Last winter was a very good one in the Alps with continuous snowfall except in February.  It was a welcome change from the previous year that was one of the worst in a generation.

alex_no_snow_400The blame for the warm weather in 2006/07 was pretty much put entirely at the door of global warming and man’s contribution to it. No mention that 2005/06 had some of the coldest average winter temperatures for over 2 decades across large parts of The Alps. When it didn't snow over Christmas large parts of the press said it was because it was too warm.

It was actually very cold but it just didn't happen to rain (and therefore snow).

It was nothing to do with the temperature, but this fact didn’t fit in with the story.

In the same year it was reported that the small French resort of Abondance had closed due to a lack of snow caused by global warming and parts of the media seized on it as the first of many resorts that will be forced to close because they had no snow.  The real story was far more complex about a small resort struggling to survive and a lack of investment.

Oh, and it didn't close then either.

Don’t get us wrong as we can’t deny that the glaciers are melting and it’s got warmer, however we’re beginning to wonder if worries have gone a bit far and we shouldn’t be a bit more questioning.

Our content editor, James Cove, first wrote a story for the BBC about how climate change might affect skiing back in 1999.  Maybe though it is time to look at the other side of the coin.

SENSATIONAL REPORTS

The product director of Crystal holidays, Gareth Crump, has pondered the same question and criticised the media for some of its reporting.

“Global warming is occurring and it is a serious issue for all of us,” maintains Crump. “However, some of the reporting is alarmist and sensationalist which leads to the false impression that skiing will never be possible again”.

He obviously has a vested interest but he may have a point.

glacier_going_400In 2006/07 people cancelled holidays and the perception was of a snow crisis across the whole of The Alps.  Tabloid headlines screamed that it was the end of skiing and the resorts were staring into the abyss.

With a handful of resorts closing for the first time in living memory there was no doubt conditions were poor, but some of the high altitude resorts had very good conditions for much of the season. Many had more snow than the previous year.

Last winter was one of the best in recent memories and all recollections of the previous winter seemed to vanish.

DOOM AND GLOOM

We should always remember that journalists like a good story, and massive climate change caused by us, evil humans, is undoubtedly a good story.

People’s reaction is interesting.

heli_ski_400Some advocate the immediate banning of heli-skiing, though its contribution is minimal; 90% of the helicopter flights in Switzerland are for commercial reasons and not transporting the relatively small number of heli-skiers.

Others feel guilty about flying or even skiing in the first place. Train travel is held up as environmentally friendly, but the jury is still out on that one. If all the people that flew took the train there would be a huge environmental impact both in the energy used and the massive infrastructure that would need to be put in place.

Meanwhile the tour operators need to be seen to be doing something so they proudly boast of how they are using energy efficient light bulbs in all their chalets.

We went to a recent press conference where the organisers claimed that the environmental cost of holding it has been offset. It seemed like a bizarre PR stunt to us.

TIME TO QUESTION?

We simply raise the question about whether it’s all going a bit far.

snow_on_car_400Our totally unscientific observations are that the ski season has been shifting with more snow now falling at the end of the season and less at the start.

There also appears to be more snow at high altitude. Needless to say the current conditions completely contradict what we’ve just said as the Alps are enjoying the best start to a winter for many years!

Our observations are over a decade or so and we’ve been in conversation with many mountain guides and locals who feel the same.

Interestingly this fits in with some scientific data we were analysing from Reading University that predicts greater precipitation over the next few decades. This would mean more snow at high levels and, though the glaciers may shrink in length, some may have a greater depth at high altitude. This is probably going a bit far though as none of the evidence seems to suggest it.

Here at planetSKI we have no idea what the answer is but we do wonder if perhaps we shouldn’t be a little bit more sceptical about what some scientists are telling us and how gleefully those in the media pounce on the predictions of doom and gloom.

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