On the face of it, extreme sports are the ideal recreational activity for those who put climate change at the forefront of their thinking. Whether its surfing or mountain biking or skiing, it is nigh on impossible to feel closer to the world we live in when you are embracing the elements it has to offer.
I recently got to experience this again on a skiing trip to Val Thorens, Europes highest ski resort at an altitude of 2,300m above sea level. As a keen skier who is used to travelling slightly later in the season, the thought of a January week spent in the clouds was enough to make the body shiver alone.
And yet the overriding emotion throughout the week was an alarming one: where is the snow?
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Throughout my six-night stay in the Three Valleys resort, it did not snow once, and the blanket that painted the entire resort white upon our arrival were transformed to long strips of grey concrete by the time the week came to an end. For most it would not have been much of a concern given all runs remained open, but look a little closer and the cause for concern was there for all to see. Suddenly patches of rock were poking out where they shouldnt have been, and cannons produced artificial snow once the sun went down to end the days activities.
By the end of this week, temperatures in Val Thorens will hit a balmy 7C, and across the ensuing seven days the heat is forecast to increase.
There is undeniable evidence that global warming is having a major impact on skiing. Nasa claims that the global surface temperature has increased by 1C when compared to the mean average between 1951 and 1980, but it is nearly double that figure in the Alps where the impact is clear to see.
There are now more than 200 abandoned or closed ski resorts in the Italian Alps alone, and plenty more across France and Switzerland, because of a lack of snow and ski-friendly conditions, while a recent study published by The National Snow and Ice Data Centre predicts Europes largest mountainous region will lose 90 per cent of its remaining glaciers by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced.
With this Pledge series in mind, it immediately got me thinking: what can I do individually to try and help address this worrying sight?
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1/20 California
In this decade, humans have become ever more aware of climate change. Calls for leaders to act echo around the globe as the signs of a changing climate become ever more difficult to ignore
2/20 Athens, Greece
Fierce wildfires have flared up in numerous countries. The damage being caused is unprecedented: 103 people were killed in wildfires last year in California, one of the places best prepared, best equipped to fight such blazes in the world
3/20 Redding, California
Entire towns have been razed. The towns of Redding and Paradise in California were all but eliminated in the 2018 season
4/20 Athens, Greece
While wildfires in Greece (pictured), Australia, Indonesia and many other countries have wrought chaos to infrastructure, economies and cost lives
5/20 Carlisle, England
In Britain, flooding has become commonplace. Extreme downpours in Carlisle in the winter of 2015 saw the previous record flood level being eclipsed by two feet
6/20 Hebden Bridge, England
Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire has flooded repeatedly in the past decade, with the worst coming on Christmas Day 2015. Toby Smith of Climate Visuals, an organisation focused on improving how climate change is depicted in the media, says: “Extreme weather and flooding, has and will become more frequent due to climate change. An increase in the severity and distribution of press images, reports and media coverage across the nation has localised the issue. It has raised our emotions, perception and personalised the effects and hazards of climate change.”
7/20 Somerset, England
Out west in Somerset, floods in 2013 led to entire villages being cut off and isolated for weeks
8/20 Dumfries, Scotland
“In summer 2012, intense rain flooded over 8000 properties. In 2013, storms and coastal surges combined catastrophically with elevated sea levels whilst December 2015, was the wettest month ever recorded. Major flooding events continued through the decade with the UK government declaring flooding as one of the nation’s major threats in 2017,” says Mr Smith of Climate Visuals
9/20 London, England
Weather has been more extreme in Britain in recent years. The ‘Beast from the East’ which arrived in February 2018 brought extraordinarily cold temperatures and high snowfall. Central London (pictured), where the city bustle tends to mean that snow doesn’t even settle, was covered in inches of snow for day
10/20 London, England
Months after the cold snap, a heatwave struck Britain, rendering the normally plush green of England’s parks in Summer a parched brown for weeks
11/20 New South Wales, Australia
Worsening droughts in many countries have been disastrous for crop yields and have threatened livestock. In Australia, where a brutal drought persisted for months last year, farmers have suffered from mental health problems because of the threat to their livelihood
12/20 Tonle Sap, Cambodia
Even dedicated climate skeptic Jeremy Clarkson has come to recognise the threat of climate change after visiting the Tonle Sap lake system in Cambodia. Over a million people rely on the water of Tonle Sap for work and sustinence but, as Mr Clarkson witnessed, a drought has severley depleted the water level
13/20 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
In reaction to these harbingers of climate obliteration, some humans have taken measures to counter the impending disaster. Ethiopia recently planted a reported 350 million trees in a single day
14/20 Morocco
Morocco has undertaken the most ambitious solar power scheme in the world, recently completing a solar plant the size of San Francisco
15/20 London, England
Electric cars are taking off as a viable alternative to fossil fuel burning vehicles and major cities across the world are adding charging points to accomodate
16/20 Purmerend, The Netherlands
Cities around the world are embracing cycling too, as a clean (and healthy) mode of transport. The Netherlands continues to lead the way with bikes far outnumbering people
17/20 Xiamen, China
Cycling infrastructure is taking over cities the world over, in the hope of reducing society’s dependency on polluting vehicles
18/20 Chennai, India
Despite positive steps being taken, humans continue to have a wildly adverse effect on the climate. There have been numerous major oil spills this decade, the most notable being the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010
19/20 Amazon rainforest, Brazil
More recently, large swathes of the Amazon rainforest were set alight by people to clear land for agriculture
20/20 California
This decade may have seen horrors but it has led to an understanding that the next decade must see change if human life is to continue
1/20 California
In this decade, humans have become ever more aware of climate change. Calls for leaders to act echo around the globe as the signs of a changing climate become ever more difficult to ignore
2/20 Athens, Greece
Fierce wildfires have flared up in numerous countries. The damage being caused is unprecedented: 103 people were killed in wildfires last year in California, one of the places best prepared, best equipped to fight such blazes in the world
3/20 Redding, California
Entire towns have been razed. The towns of Redding and Paradise in California were all but eliminated in the 2018 season
4/20 Athens, Greece
While wildfires in Greece (pictured), Australia, Indonesia and many other countries have wrought chaos to infrastructure, economies and cost lives
5/20 Carlisle, England
In Britain, flooding has become commonplace. Extreme downpours in Carlisle in the winter of 2015 saw the previous record flood level being eclipsed by two feet
6/20 Hebden Bridge, England
Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire has flooded repeatedly in the past decade, with the worst coming on Christmas Day 2015. Toby Smith of Climate Visuals, an organisation focused on improving how climate change is depicted in the media, says: “Extreme weather and flooding, has and will become more frequent due to climate change. An increase in the severity and distribution of press images, reports and media coverage across the nation has localised the issue. It has raised our emotions, perception and personalised the effects and hazards of climate change.”
7/20 Somerset, England
Out west in Somerset, floods in 2013 led to entire villages being cut off and isolated for weeks
8/20 Dumfries, Scotland
“In summer 2012, intense rain flooded over 8000 properties. In 2013, storms and coastal surges combined catastrophically with elevated sea levels whilst December 2015, was the wettest month ever recorded. Major flooding events continued through the decade with the UK government declaring flooding as one of the nation’s major threats in 2017,” says Mr Smith of Climate Visuals
9/20 London, England
Weather has been more extreme in Britain in recent years. The ‘Beast from the East’ which arrived in February 2018 brought extraordinarily cold temperatures and high snowfall. Central London (pictured), where the city bustle tends to mean that snow doesn’t even settle, was covered in inches of snow for day
10/20 London, England
Months after the cold snap, a heatwave struck Britain, rendering the normally plush green of England’s parks in Summer a parched brown for weeks
11/20 New South Wales, Australia
Worsening droughts in many countries have been disastrous for crop yields and have threatened livestock. In Australia, where a brutal drought persisted for months last year, farmers have suffered from mental health problems because of the threat to their livelihood
12/20 Tonle Sap, Cambodia
Even dedicated climate skeptic Jeremy Clarkson has come to recognise the threat of climate change after visiting the Tonle Sap lake system in Cambodia. Over a million people rely on the water of Tonle Sap for work and sustinence but, as Mr Clarkson witnessed, a drought has severley depleted the water level
13/20 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
In reaction to these harbingers of climate obliteration, some humans have taken measures to counter the impending disaster. Ethiopia recently planted a reported 350 million trees in a single day
14/20 Morocco
Morocco has undertaken the most ambitious solar power scheme in the world, recently completing a solar plant the size of San Francisco
15/20 London, England
Electric cars are taking off as a viable alternative to fossil fuel burning vehicles and major cities across the world are adding charging points to accomodate
16/20 Purmerend, The Netherlands
Cities around the world are embracing cycling too, as a clean (and healthy) mode of transport. The Netherlands continues to lead the way with bikes far outnumbering people
17/20 Xiamen, China
Cycling infrastructure is taking over cities the world over, in the hope of reducing society’s dependency on polluting vehicles
18/20 Chennai, India
Despite positive steps being taken, humans continue to have a wildly adverse effect on the climate. There have been numerous major oil spills this decade, the most notable being the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010
19/20 Amazon rainforest, Brazil
More recently, large swathes of the Amazon rainforest were set alight by people to clear land for agriculture
20/20 California
This decade may have seen horrors but it has led to an understanding that the next decade must see change if human life is to continue
An activity such as skiing or snowboarding may feel like it is carbon neutral, but for almost everyone who decides such a holiday is for them, it is not. Like myself, most of those carving up the slopes of the Three Valleys will have flown to Geneva, or Grenoble, or Lyon, completely oblivious that the aircrafts carrying us to be at one with nature are the biggest threat to the planet.  
Aviation is projected to be the United Kingdoms single largest source of emissions within 30 years and its carbon footprint has grown by 20 per cent across Europe since 2005, with a steady increase of around four per cent each year. With trans-European trains making it very easy to travel to the Alps and the luxuries once reserved for flights now openly available on the rails, it is becoming increasingly hard to justify taking to air for a ski trip, simply because doing so will soon eradicate the very process of hitting the slopes.