As an earth scientist and geology student I have multiple views and perspectives on the climate change phenomena that have recently been grouped together by the media and popular culture as "Global Warming." It is undeniable that the overall global climate we are seeing today is far above and beyond that which would be caused by purely natural forces. The levels of Carbon Dioxide, Sulfur Dioxide, Methane, and other greenhouse gasses are a thousand times above their natural historical averages; which is no doubt being caused by a rapidly industrializing, fossil-fuel driven world economy. Oil is the axis upon which the industrial world revolves, and with rising superpowers such as India and China building new coal-fired power plants and factories as we speak, there are no worlwide regulations regarding air emmisions and atmospheric pollution to hold other nationd accountable. Of course, the United States is without a doubt the guiltiest of any nation, as our current bone-headed administration (along with previous ones) refuses to ratify even basic global measures such as the Kyoto protocol. With big-business friendly politicians fulling the strings and an ever corporate-friendly government, sadly we likely see even more profound climate change in our lifetimes.
Glaciers across the world are melting and unprecedented rates, and places like Glacier National Park and the fragile Mt. Kilamanjaro in Africa will likely lose all their glaciers in our lifetimes. Both the arctic and antarctic ice sheets and glaciers and melting extremely fast, and super-hurricanes such as Katrina are becoming common. While some parts of the country are subjected to huge blizzards, winter storms, and harsh weather (ie; Denver in the past few weeks and the Northwest so far this season), other areas (like the Northeast this season) have been having abnormaly warm weather and little precipitation. The Alps region of Europe is having their warmest season in an estimated 1,250 years. Think about that. This is climate change on a truly global level; and change starts with PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY. Like it or not; we are all "slaves to the fossil fuel economy" in a certain sense, even those radical hippies who have ditched their cars and bike everywhere; we still rely heavily on both the petroleum and mining industries for almost EVERYTHING in our daily lives in first-world countries, and if you would like to argue that, go live in a hut with no electricity or running water for a year and then get back to me. So start small and turn off the lights more, use rechargable batteries and recycle, ditch the Denali or Suburban for a little Subaru or Pruis, and bike to school/work. Hike for turns instead of snowmobiling. Carpool to the mountains and use the town shuttle busses.
Now, getting back to my first point on multiple perspectives. The point I want to clarify here is that while as humans we are undoubtably contributing to global warming to the point where it is no longer natural; fundamentally we are in a natural climactic cycle, a distinction many people forget and thus lose the academic integrity of their arguement. If you look at the earth's climate overall in say the last 100,000 years, we have gone through dozens of warming snd cooling cycles, in which the earth enters an Ice Age for a few thousand years, with widespread glaciation and lower sea levels as the ice caps entrap thousands of miles of otherwise open ocean. This is followed by a gradual warming period that generally follows an exponential pattern in its intensity, meaning that the earth gradually warms, slowly at first, and then becoming warmer and warmer quicker until the next Ice Age hits. Now of course, we are talking geological time, in which even the most minor events like Ice Ages take hundreds to thousands of years to solidify. The last big North American Ice Age was in the late Wisconsonian time, about 15,000 years ago. This was the Ice Age that brought humans to North America on the Bering Bridge to Alaska, and created much of the surficial landscape we see today in the northern U.S. On average, these Ice ages occur every 13,000 or 14,000 years or so. We are overdue and have been so roughly since the time of Jesus. What we are seeing now is a rapidly accelerated version of the natural climax of the warming trend.
What is not natural; however, are the ungoldly ammounts of airborne pollutants being emmitted every day from the most advanced "environmentally-friendly", "responsible" countries in the world, like the U.S. It would be convenient to blame global warming on activities in impoverished third-world countries like burning the rainforest and open-air smelting; but really these countries are only raped and pillaged for their resources by us, the superpowers. So in the end; think small, becuase change starts with us, yes us skiers. Global warming is real; and anyone who denies this is being willfully ignorant of science, a crime on par with intelligent design. So everybody hike a few more turns and cram a few more friends in the old suburban, er, legacy. ;) And yes, other than skiing I have no life. ;)