(Note: This letter was delivered to COP21 in Paris in 2015 in Paris and we are now sharing this to our blog.)
Dear World Leaders,
Around the planet, winter sports and mountain communities are seeing firsthand what scientists have been saying for decades: our snow is disappearing due to climate change. For the first time in history, our winter-dependent communities and industries are coming together uniting to confront the issue and we insist that you take action with a strong global agreement in Paris to minimize the impacts of climate change. The stakes are enormous and our passions, heritages, our livelihoods, and our communities truly could hang in the balance.
According to the latest research from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, snow cover is shrinking rapidly across the Northern Hemisphere, glaciers are retreating rapidly, and global temperatures are rising. These changes have profound effects on the more than one billion people living in regions from the Sierra Nevada to the Himalayas who depend on fresh water and resources, which mountains provide.
Those outside the winter sports communities who inhabit or visit winter regions stand to lose an entire culture and way of living, in which snow isn’t a fact of life, but a way of life. Snow has played a significant role in inviting us to discover the beauty of the planet, to spend time with the people we love and build the families, friendships, and communities that endure. Snow is our way to wonder and joy. Our stories are unique, but we all rely on the snow. We are the café owners in Chamonix. We are the athletes in Vail that live for fresh powder. We are the families in Nepal that depend on the snowy mountains and the global travelers they draw.
Climate change means that only 10 of the 19 cities that have hosted the Winter Olympics will be cold enough to host them again by 2050, and by 2100, only 6. The US ski resort industry suffered losses from lower snowfall winters costing over $1 billion in revenue and up to 27,000 jobs between 1999 – 2010 alone. We know the threat is real. Our home mountains provide water and resources that support more than a billion lives, often in communities of the world’s poorest and hungriest.
This threat arrives at a time when the tools and opportunity to address it are in our hands. Right here. Right now. As the world looks to the UN’s climate negotiations in Paris in December of this year, we have the technology to transition the world to clean energy and inspire a new generation to act to protect the season and regions of our planet, which are so deeply rooted in our human story.
That is why the world’s winter sports and mountain communities are standing in unity to demand that policymakers act boldly to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. We demand that you make strong commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We demand that you create an ambitious global agreement that puts us on a path towards zero global warming pollution and zero extreme poverty. By making commitments to significant emissions reductions beginning in 2020, increasing ambition over time, and boosting mitigation efforts, you can help halt rising global temperatures and ensure our planet’s richness and diversity for future generations. We don’t have the luxury of waiting.