Climbing Down Slowly
Early in my time in Innsbruck, they held a rock climbing world championship in the square outside the Markthalle. A few years later a new rock climbing centre opened near the railway arcade, and all the playgrounds sprouted climbing walls like potatoes kept too long in a heated room. At the beginning of May, there was a rock climbing European championship in Innsbruck. When you listen to interviews with officials, you can see that this all fits into a simple policy.
And the policy is simple: most of the glaciers are going away during my lifetime, even if we achieve drastic cuts to emissions (Canada’s are still 20% over 1990, Austria’s about static and Germany’s down around 30% from 1990) and extreme weather will make getting to some of the more remote valleys problematic. By the middle of this century, Tirol won’t be a centre for mass ski tourism like it was in the late 20th century. So while people are still coming and there is still some money and CO2e to spare, the Tirolean government is promoting summer sports: mountain biking, hiking, and rock climbing. With luck, these will be booming as climate change really cuts into the ski business, and the economy can transition from winter tourism to summer tourism. (I don’t know how they plan to deal with the reduction of long-distance travel as fewer people can spare the energy budget even for efficient means like widebody airliners, but northern Italy and southern Germany have a big rich population and there are good train connections to Innsbruck even if Deutsche Bahn is a disaster).
The average temperature in Tirol in April was almost exactly 1.3 degrees Centigrade over the historical average temperature. In July some days peak at 36 degrees and others peak at 16 degrees, some days have a clear sky and other pelting rain and clattering hail.
Half the houses in Tirol have solar panels on their roofs, despite being in a valley within a valley. There is talk of putting awnings over some of the higher valleys every summer to slow the loss of ice.
Now, you could say that this is like quitting smoking after you already have emphysema, or cutting up your credit card after you already have $10,000 in high-interest debt. By 2100 we are going to have trouble keeping agriculture and sea freight going, even in optimistic scenarios. But on the other hand, at least in Tirol we are doing something! Back in Canada, both of the largest federal parties are committed to doing nothing substantial to reduce emissions, and while some provincial governments are finally moving, others hope that if they just throw themselves on the floor and scream the problem will go away. That works for social conflicts, but the sun and the storm don’t care.
More that a decade ago I read that European Ski hills were being rated for loans on their altitude. The lower the altitude the shorter the deadline for repaying loans to banks. Banks and Insurance companies have no doubt about whether Global Warming is real.
There was a lot of controversy in BC about building the Site C Dam on the Fraser River. My take was that it should have been designed from the beginning to provide Pumped Hydroelectric Storage Capacity, to recycle the water flowing through it, and to allow it to store surplus nuclear and thermal power from Alberta and the USA when demand there is low.
BC Hydro already imports more power each year than it exports, hence the need for Site C, but makes a profit by using Arbitrage. The hydroelectric generators are spun up to full capacity when work day demand peaks in Western Canada and the USA, then get dialed back when demand slows, conserving water. With PHS the same water can be used to store solar, wind, nuclear and coal power, multiple times. Many of the existing dams in BC could be retrofitted for PHS.
BC has similar geography to Norway. Why can’t BC Hydro emulate success in this area?
Our politicians are sure more eager to make excuses and twiddle the tax rate for the right demographic a bit than to keep on doing the big things that Canada spent the short 20th century doing. Canadians went from outhouses to septic tanks to sewage systems and dirt roads to highways and sailboats to Canadarms with all the changes that implies, but somehow burning less fossil fuels this year than last year, and next the year after that, so that sometime within the next 20 or 30 years we burn about 0 tons is inconceivable.