Climbers and activists are meeting this week in Washington, DC, to lobby Congress on a host of issues, including the climate crisis, energy development and leasing reform, recreation access and enhancement, and public land management agency funding–in addition to recreation and conservation land designations such as the ongoing legal battle over national monuments that were reduced by the Trump Administration in 2017.
Known as Climb the Hill, the event is the fourth annual lobbying session organized by the Access Fund and the American Alpine Club.
The timing of this year’s Climb the Hill occurs in a week of global action on the climate crisis.
On September 23, the United Nations Climate Action Summit will convene in New York in order to discuss action on the Paris Climate Accord. The Paris Accord represents an agreement between 194 nations (in 2015) to take steps to limit the average global increase in temperature to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Scientists broadly agree that a 2-degree increase is the maximum the globe can withstand before the impacts of climate change (including rising sea levels, an increased number of mega fires, and more severe periods of precipitation and drought) may intensify to catastrophic levels. In June 2017, President Trump announced that he planned to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord (though that withdrawal cannot legally take place until November 2020).
Climate activists have organized additional events leading up to the UN Climate summit.
Across the globe, student activists such as Greta Thunberg and youth groups such as the Indigenous Youth Council and the Sunrise Movement have helped spread awareness of a climate strike on Friday, September 20. Students and workers–from high schoolers in Australia to Amazon employees in Seattle–plan to walkout as part of a global demand for action on the climate crisis. Bill McKibben predicts that the strike may be “the biggest day of climate action in the planet’s history.”
News organizations are also taking part in the action.
In the week leading up to the UN Climate Action summit, news and media outlets across the globe have pledged to increase their coverage of the climate crisis in a coordinated effort known as the Covering Climate Now coalition. The coalition, launched by the Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation, aims to increase global understanding of what editors of both of those publications refer to as “the most urgent story of our time.”
More than 250 media outlets (including Alpinist and Rock and Ice) have joined the coalition.
According to recent polling data from the American Alpine Club, 94 percent of climbers believe that the climate crisis “poses a risk to the places we climb, ski and mountaineer,” and 88 percent of climbers in the US believe that climate change is “mostly” driven by human activities. The statistics of climate change awareness among climbers is greater than the national average. According to data from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication in April 2019, only 55 percent of Americans believe that climate change is “mostly human-caused.”
Scientists worldwide are nearly unanimous (likely surpassing 99 percent) that climate change is driven by human activities–from greenhouse gas emissions of methane and carbon to deforestation, among other factors.
A press release from the organizers of Climb the Hill summarizes the main objectives of the lobbying effort:
Nearly 60 percent of all rock climbing areas in the US is located on federally managed public land. The protection of these lands and the environment surrounding them is critical to the future of climbing and the safety of climbers. Access Fund and the AAC will represent climbers by pursuing legislative and administrative action on recreation access and enhancement, energy development and leasing reform, funding for public land management agencies, recreation and conservation land designations, and climate change action.
Notably, for the first time in the history of Climb the Hill, a JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) Taskforce, co-chaired by Shelma Jun and Pete Ward, will provide training and resources to Climb the Hill attendees.
In a briefing packet for Climb the Hill participants, the organizers shared “A Note from the JEDI Taskforce”:
We believe that climbing and access to the outdoors can provide opportunities for personal growth, spur social change, and make our community strong. But many– including people of color, indigenous communities, LGBTQ+ folks, and people with disabilities–experience disparities in access to climbing and to conversations about climbing policy. As a result, they are not equitable recipients of those benefits. Our JEDI Taskforce is committed to ensuring that the voices of all our community members are represented at this event.
Alex Honnold, Bethany Lebewitz (Brown Girls Climb), Kareemah Batts (Adaptive Climbing Group), Maricela Rosales (Latino Outdoors), Mikhail Martin (Brothers of Climbing), Quinn Brett, Tommy Caldwell and Vernan Kee (Natives Outdoors) are among the over 60 climbers and activists who will attend this week’s Climb the Hill event.