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There's been a lot of snow this past winter, but also extended drought in the West. And the planet's ice cover, in the form of glaciers and sea ice, has been undeniably receding over the last century or more. They know it in Iceland where features like the Jokullsarlon (Iceberg Lagoon) have been growing quickly.

A century ago, this lagoon did not exist at all. Back then, the glacier extended
to the sea. In the last 40 years, Jokullsarlon has more than tripled in size to nearly 20 sq km.
And the same is true throughout most of the world: Glacier National Park has lost most of its glaciers. The snows of Kilamanjaro will soon be gone. Maple syrup producers aren't having an easy time of it, either. While serious people like James Balog document our precipitously changing planet, a multi-billion dollar network of climate deniers has been filling the airwaves with noise for the benefit of a handful of unimaginably wealthy fossil carbon interests.
[Robert Brulle's] work, which is focused on the United States, shows how a network of 91 think tanks and industry groups are primarily responsible for conservative opposition to climate policy. Almost 80 percent of these groups are registered as charitable organizations for tax purposes and collectively received more than seven billion dollars between 2003 and 2010.

Among those named as key nodes of the network were the American Enterprise Institute, which claims to have no institutional position on climate change, and the Heritage Foundation, which campaigns on a number of issues. However, Brulle admitted that tracing the funding back to its original sources was difficult, as around three-quarters of the money has been routed through trusts that assure anonymity to their donors.

Compared to truly cataclysmic climate exchange effects like sea level rise, disappearing pollinators and projected large-scale famine, effects on the ski industry are a relatively trivial matter. To those whose livelihood depends on skiing, it matters a lot, and those people are in a good position to keep tabs on snowpack.

Porter, long-time features editor at POWDER magazine, said during a panel on climate change in San Francisco last month that before writing the book he was not aware of just how much an impact climate change is having on ski areas or the potential losses it might bring. "We were doing ski stories noticing there was less snow on the ground, but after doing some research, we were shocked," he said. "I've been writing about skiing for 20 years and I was totally surprised by how much snow has already been lost."
In the last two winter Olympics at Vancouver and Sochi, the problems with the skiing events were hard to miss. Massive infrastructure was built to supplement inadequate natural snowfall. Some days, the competitors skied through the rain, and some events were postponed entirely.
The roughly 300 small mom and pop ski resorts in the United States are emerging as the first victims of climate change. As snowpacks shrink, glaciers recede, and temperatures inch upward, these operations are merely trying to make payroll, which makes paying for more snowmaking, investing in renewable energy, or other strategies for addressing these problems, untenable.
This past year, snowboarders and skiers, their reputation as partying slackers notwithstanding, came to Washington to lobby on climate change, under the banner of a non-profit called Protect Our Winters.
Snowboarders and skiers came to Washington to urge action on Climate Change.
October 2013
"We had two-time gold medalist snowboarder Seth Wescott, we had Chris Davenport, we had Forest Shearer, we had Danny Davis, we had legendary mountaineer Conrad Anker. And then, aside from all these athletes, we had executives from Black Diamond, from Patagonia, K2. Donna Carpenter, who founded Burton, the largest snowboard company in the world. It was a remarkable group," said Schendler. David Ingemie, president of Snowsports Industries America, came along for the meet-and-greets, too.
Combined, the individuals and companies represented in the group reach 6 million people through social media, said Schendler. "I looked around the table, I saw these legendary athletes, and I realized what our mission is, which is that we're going to use the power of this group to create the policies we need to fix climate. It was a real epiphany." Indeed, by Tuesday afternoon, these folks' Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages were all abuzz with quips and pics about their trip to Washington.

But not everyplace is having reduced snowfall. Consider North America's Great Lakes. There, shorter seasons of frozen surface mean more evaporation and more lake effect snow.

lake effect snow
Satellite image of lake effect snow
Which brings me to local New Mexico News. Taos Ski Valley resort has been run as a family business since it was founded in 1954. This past winter, it was sold to a billionaire hedge fund operator, Louis Bacon. According to Fortune, he's a conservationist.
[Bacon] has spent close to $400 million on 202,000 acres of land in the U.S. that are either in easements or soon will be. (Bacon also owns a handful of international properties, including land in Scotland, Panama and the Bahamas.) He says his land ethic can be summed up in the famous Aldo Leopold quote: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

Conservation easements offer a neat way for wealthy environmentalists like Bacon to have their cake and eat it, too. Easements come with some serious breaks on taxes. The easements are valued by taking the present value of the land, as is, and contrasting that with an appraisal of the land if it were fully developed. The tax break is the difference of the two. It was reported that Bacon got an $8 million tax deduction on his $11 million purchase of Robins.

I can't help but wonder if he's bothered to consider seriously what climate change is doing to the ski industry. Seems to me it would make better sense to invest in the Adirondacks in upstate New York. The old owners, the Blake family, had obtained permits for a variety of upgraded facilities, but lacked the capital funds to pay for it. Time will tell what will change and what will remain the same at Taos Ski Valley.
lake effect snow, New York State

Originally posted to New Mexico Kossaks on Sun Mar 16, 2014 at 06:24 PM PDT.

Also republished by DK GreenRoots, Climate Change SOS, and Climate Hawks.

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