In March 28, 2020-year-old Lena Marie Müller was the fourth woman to climb the Trad-Testpiece Principle Hope. Lena usually traveled there by public transport. In today's guest post she explores the question of how our favorite sport affects the climate and stimulates reflection.

A contribution by Lena Marie Müller

How does our love for the mountains affect the climate? And what can we do to change this process?

It's as uncomfortable as it is simple: the more we climb, the more we mountaineering, the more we go bouldering, skiing and hiking, the worse it is for our environment. Our climate is warming mainly due to our high fossil fuel consumption(1), e.g. through traffic and the production of industrial goods. To reduce the risks associated with this global warming, it is imperative to limit the global temperature rise to 1,5 ° C.

This can only be achieved by drastically reducing carbon emissions(2). However, the more we get excited about our outdoor sports, the more we travel and need equipment, thus contributing to global warming.

The sense and nonsense of CO2-Compensation

We probably make the most damaging contribution to the climate with our sports through the emissions that we produce when we go climbing and mountaineering. If we don't want to give up our mountain sports, but still want to live ecologically sustainable, we have to reduce our CO2- Reduce footprint. We can achieve this, for example, by offsetting the carbon emissions from our journeys, for example by planting trees. In this so-called "carbon offset", the CO2, which we release into the atmosphere by driving a car or flying, is taken up by trees - the more trees are planted, the more carbon is taken up and the better it is for the climate(3).

This carbon offset is often criticized because one can still behave in a way that is harmful to the environment and only calms one's conscience. While this may be true, my experience has shown that carbon offsetting can also increase awareness of the emissions caused by travel and, consequently, lead to a reduced footprint. In fact, however, the disadvantage is that it takes several decades before the trees absorb the carbon emitted. So it is better to avoid emissions from the start.

Bike, carpooling, public transport and regional climbing spots

There are other options that we must therefore use to reduce our CO2- Reduce footprint. For example, we could forego flying or stay in one climbing area for a weekend trip or vacation instead of going to many different areas. In addition, we can reduce our footprint by going to nearby climbing areas, carpooling or - ideally - using public transport and cycling. Even if this sounds simple, it doesn't mean that it is easy in practice.

Lena usually traveled by public transport to inspect the Trad-Testpieces Principle Hope. (Photo Johannes Ingrisch)

Is it possible to act ecologically in another area of ​​life?

So how do we deal with this? Personally, I believe that as climbers we are very good at sticking to a process and working on our weaknesses, be it to climb a particular mountain, climb a particular route, or take a training log.

I firmly believe that reducing our footprint can be seen not only as an obligation, but also as an opportunity.

In this process, each of us can try to constantly improve. I like to see our individual contribution to climate change as a “personal emissions quota”. This quota can be used for all aspects of our life. If we do something that uses up a large part of this quota, we should reduce it in other areas. For example, if we are not prepared to use our car for climbing or mountaineering less, we could see this as an opportunity to avoid emissions in another area.

This seems to me to be a good opportunity to rethink and reevaluate various aspects of our lives. It means looking for alternatives in other areas: for example, we can change our diet (eat seasonally and regionally, consume less meat), rethink our consumer behavior (buy sustainable climbing equipment and clothing, repair broken clothing or equipment) or become more politically active ( Climate movement, elections).

With bag and baggage on the way to the climbing garden. (Photo Johannes Ingrisch)

Step by step

I think we are on the right track when we start to talk about what we can change in our behavior. Our passion for these sports can become a great motivator for preserving and protecting the nature in which we spend so much of our time. This is our chance to find sustainable solutions for our lifestyle in the face of climate change.

At the end of the day it boils down to what we are ready to change in our lives.

But maybe it's not just about radical changes or drastic decisions. Maybe it's more about small changes that still have a big impact and that we love to do. And that we therefore integrate again and again into our everyday life.

about the author

The 28 year old Lena Marie Muller is currently doing his doctorate at the University of Innsbruck in the field of ecology on the effects of climate change. In March 2020, she climbed the rarely used Trad test piece Principle hope Beat Kammerlander in Bürs, which she almost always reached by train from Innsbruck.

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1: IPCC, 2013: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Stocker, TF, D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, SK Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex and PM Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, 1535 pp.
2: IPCC (2018) Summary for Policymakers. In: Global warming of 1.5 ° C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 ° C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty . World Meteorological Organization, Geneva, Switzerland, 32 pp.
3: Bastin, Jean-Francois; Finegold, Yelena; Garcia, Claude; Mollicone, Danilo; Rezende, Marcelo; Routh, Devin, et al. (2019): The global tree restoration potential. In: Science 365 (6448), pp. 76-79.

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Credits: Pictures Johannes Ingrisch. This article appeared for the first time in English