Tom Clyde: Thinking about the climate long term
It’s good to be back on the snow again. Mother Nature sort of cooperated this year, and while there isn’t lot of natural snow, there’s been enough to make a difference. Unlike last year, it’s been cold enough to make snow. So Park City Mountain got a good base down for the season opening. Being able to open both the Park City and Canyons bases on the same day made a huge difference. Last year, with only the Park City side open, the traffic volume on the white ribbon of death was terrifying. Too many skiers on not enough terrain isn’t any fun. With both bases open, the traffic was split, and opening week was fun skiing on good snow.
There are some big changes at Park City this year. The first thing I noticed was that they have revamped the parking lot. For the first time since 1963, they have figured out how to load the parking lot. The cars enter from the lower end and drive up to the available spaces. The skiers are putting their boots on and assembling their gear in an area that the cars aren’t driving through. When you walk up to the plaza, you aren’t dodging cars driven by maniacs searching for an open parking space and ignoring people walking across the street. It only took 55 years to figure that one out. They still need to double the number of parking places, but for what they have, this seems to work a lot better.
The other big change is that there are butt targets painted on the seat cushions on some of the lifts. That’s important as people load the chair, because sooner or later, somebody will pull the bar down. If you aren’t right on the target, the handle will slam into your kneecap, for your safety and convenience.
So ski season is off to a good start, and not a minute too soon. The transition season is always hard on me. I get the bike stuff put away, but the skiing hasn’t started. Before long I start looking at home improvement projects. Another week of “off-season” and I might have started a bathroom remodel that wouldn’t get finished before ski season and I’d have to live with it all winter. So I dodged that bullet.
While I was driving back and forth from my house to the resort, where I would ski on snow made with compressed air and pumped water, I was listening to the radio. The big news was the Federal Government’s formal report on climate change. They apparently are required to make a report on it every few years. The news is grim. They concluded that climate change is happening more quickly than earlier forecasts, and that severe weather events would become more frequent and more extreme. As if our drought, the California fires and the hurricanes weren’t enough to tell us that already.
The President said he didn’t believe it. Who are you going to believe, Donald Trump’s gut or a bunch of pointy-headed scientists? The scientists all have ulterior motives because the more they can stir up fears of climate change, the more grant money they can get from corrupt sources like Big Wind and Big Solar. Not to be confused with the honorable scientists funded by the benevolent folks at Big Oil. And we all know how wealthy those windmill manufacturers are compared to, say, Exxon.
Anyway, it’s happening, and the consequences are pretty dire. The problem is that meaningful solutions are also pretty dire. I’ve switched over to LED lights, drive a reasonably fuel efficient car (too often and too far). I could put solar panels on my roof if somebody would move the mountain that casts a shadow on the house, but if my entire electrical load disappeared, nobody would notice.
So far, nobody has really come up with a solution that makes dramatic reductions in CO2 emissions without us living in Bangladesh-level density. We appear to be more willing to colonize Mars than forego the morning shower a couple of days a week. Moving to renewables on a large scale makes sense. Pumping water up mountains to make snow for people who arrive in jets and stay in large, well-heated houses maybe doesn’t.
Change will come, but in weird ways. I have to assume that it will soon become impossible to buy fire insurance in places with high wildfire exposure (like here). That will change the economics of owning that slope-side condo. Then what? The dominoes start falling in unpredictable ways, and maybe the will to address the problem will come from pocketbook issues rather than concern for future generations.
It’s all too hard to figure out, so I think I’ll drive over to the resort and do some skiing instead. They’ve made snow on more runs for the weekend.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.