Explore the Science
What’s causing this record-setting heat? Over the past 800,000 years, carbon dioxide (CO2) and surface temperatures on Earth have remained at patterned and reliable levels. Now, mostly due to large-scale human fossil fuel use, atmospheric CO2 levels have surpassed historic levels, exceeding 400 parts per million (ppm). Which is to say, the climate is warming.
Because CO2 levels and temperature correlate, our world is measurably warmer, and that’s making hurricanes, floods, heat waves and droughts much worse. Meanwhile, our snowpack is diminishing, wildfires are increasing and our escapes to the great outdoors are under threat. The climate situation is already bad––people are getting hurt––and unless we get CO2 concentrations back below 350ppm, things are going to get a lot worse.
Climate or Weather?
Time for a vocabulary lesson:
- Weather is short-term. Think: How might the temperature, humidity, precipitation, clouds, visibility and wind change in the next hour, day or week?
- Climate is long-term. Climate is the weather in a certain area averaged over a long period of time (30+ years), in which we can observe large-scale trends and changes.
So, what’s the difference?
- Greenhouse gases trap heat in our atmosphere. These include carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, ozone, and nitrous oxide, among others. Without them, our planet would be substantially colder and would not support the ecosystems we know today.
- Fossil fuels are formed when organic carbon from ancient plants and animals is buried, heated, and compressed under high pressures over hundreds of millions of years in the Earth’s crust. The burning of fossil fuels releases the stored carbon back into the atmosphere and increases the concentration of greenhouse gases, trapping more heat and warming up our planet.
OKAY, BUT WHAT CHANGES ARE WE ACTUALLY SEEING?
- Global temperature has increased 1.5F (0.9C) since 1880
- Arctic sea ice minimum has decreased 12.8 percent per decade since 1979 (when satellite records began).
- Note: ‘minimum’ means the extent of Arctic sea ice in September, when the ice levels are at their lowest.
- Land ice has decreased 286 gigatonnes per year since 2002
- Note: land ice means ice sheets (Greenland and Antarctica) plus glaciers.
- Global average sea level has increased seven inches (178 mm) over the past 100 years––and it’s only going to get worse
Want to do a little extra credit? Check out NASA’s Global Climate Change page on Vital Signs of the Planet.
Still Not Convinced?
More than 97 percent of scientists agree. Over the past century, the earth has been warming at an alarming rate, that is extremely likely due to the increased prevalence of CO2 caused by human activities. Climate deniers report that there is still disagreement in this regard. Here’s a graph showing the what disagreement looks like:
We call that consensus. After all, if 97 out of 100 doctors declared you had a major health issue, wouldn’t you believe them?
So What Needs to Happen?
Maybe you’ve heard people talking about this ultra-important 1.5˚C marker that we have to keep climate change under. But to hit this goal, we have to act FAST. In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report stating that staying at or below 1.5°C requires slashing global greenhouse gas emissions 45 percent below 2010 levels by 2030 and reaching net zero by 2050. That leaves us just around a decade to get our act together. Meaning we have to take big systemic actions RIGHT NOW.
Where Are All of These Emissions Coming From?
Human-caused greenhouse gases mostly come from burning fossil fuels for electricity, transportation and other industry activities. While fossil fuels have been helpful in global development for hundreds of years, it’s pretty evident that the resulting emissions are a MAJOR problem. If we’re serious about climate change (and you better believe we are), we have to decrease our fossil fuel dependence and transition to a clean energy economy.
What this doesn’t require: That we freeze in the dark or deprive developing nations of electricity, sanitation and economic growth.
What this does require: A global commitment to clean energy and a carbon neutral economy.
Where Does POW Come In?
The outdoor industry is responsible for 7.6 million jobs and $887 billion in annual consumer spending. The winter sports community alone generates $72 billion per year and supports 694,918 jobs. This massive sector of the U.S. economy generates more in consumer spending than the fossil fuel industry, and the snowsports industry alone employs more people than extractive industries in the U.S.
Here’s the problem
Climate change is threatening winter as we know it. Ski seasons are becoming shorter, with more extreme conditions and overall becoming less reliable. In addition to affecting snow conditions, abnormal weather patterns have increased drought, flooding and extreme heat across the globe — none of which contribute to a thriving outdoor economy.
The technology for clean, renewable energy is here today. Embracing clean energy sources to address global climate change will drive innovation, create long term jobs and improve our health and air quality. Globally, clean energy growth is outpacing fossil fuels. This widening gap will reduce electricity costs and make renewable energy more widely available.
At POW, our goal is to advocate for systemic climate solutions that mitigate greenhouse gas emissions on a mass scale. Our policy agenda focuses on four main areas: set an economy-wide price on carbon, transition to a clean energy economy by investing in solar energy, protect our public lands from fossil fuel extraction and utilize innovative transit solutions to minimize emissions from the transportation sector.
When it comes to solving the climate crisis, there is no silver bullet––but there is silver buckshot. While we recognize there are many solutions available, our community has chosen these four areas of focus to combat the climate crisis.
Fired up? Take action now
When we create swells of popular pressure, we can affect policy. And it’s working—but we need more passionate outdoor people to use their voice and help create climate victories where they’re needed most.