Jumping off 50-footers is easier than walking 250 flat miles with skis strapped to your back. I should know. I just walked through England, Holland, and Belgium, en route to Copenhagen, Denmark, where the United Nations Climate Change Conference was taking place from December 7-18. I had two goals: firstly, to draw media attention to our snow crisis, and secondly, to meet with U.S. and world climate leaders to discuss a cost-effective business plan for climate change. Once my sore feet arrived in Copenhagen, presidents from around the world signed my skis, and I worked to raise awareness of saving our snow, not only for the sport of skiing, but also to demonstrate that snow is responsible for almost 50 percent of the world’s drinking water.
I met the mayor of Denver, the president of Costa Rica, the leaders of Norway, Climate delegates from Belize, Austria, Sudan, and Senegal, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, the official U.S. Climate Envoy, and the U.S. secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
What was most striking about the conference was the lack of any debate about science—196 countries agreeing on the same reports and therefore focused attention on mitigation, adaptation, what amount of reduction cuts would occur, and who would pay for them. The small island nations were pushing for reduction amounts from the conservative IPCC report that would keep them above water—about a 1.5-degree increase, which translates into a 80-90 percent reduction in emissions. The EU consensus was for a 40 percent reduction, while the U.S. is pushing for a paltry 1-2 percent reduction (Obama’s 18 percent pledge when translated into 1990 levels). Another real disconnect was what the U.S. media’s version of what was happening as compared to what was actually happening, mostly concerning making China look bad and the U.S. look more saintly.
As a climate change solutions consultant, I was also able to meet with U.S. leaders on my four-step business plan for meaningful and cost-effective climate change emission reductions, and I plan on continuing those meetings in Washington. With more than 68,500 media stories from around the world, the trip has exceeded even my high expectations to spread awareness.
Alison Gannett is a World Extreme Freeskiing Champion and Founder of The Save Our Snow Foundation.