Rongbuk Glacier then and now

Rongbuk Glacier then and now. 

Whether you believe manmade climate change is a real issue or not, I think we can all agree on one point: It can only be a good thing to stop taking dirty stuff from the ground, burning it up and spewing it into the air. That’s just common sense. The sooner we can get off fossil fuels, the better, because we’re putting ungodly amounts of carbon dioxide into the air, and I know that, based on science, that even I (a supposed global-warming denier, according to my wife) can’t dispute.

It’s called the Keeling Curve, and it’s disturbing. It shows a rapid rise in the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere since climate science pioneer Charles David Keeling started keeping records in the 1950s. There’s no way to look at the curve and not be concerned, which is why Aspen native Jackie Francis founded the Keeling Curve Prize, which awards money to organizations around the world that are working on projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or increase carbon uptake.

The KCP, founded in 2017, doled out its first prizes last summer, and the application period for the 2019 awards, which will be awarded in June, opened on Dec. 1. The prizes are intended to go to organizations and individuals providing optimism in the fight against climate change, but if you (or I, as my wife might claim), need a slightly pessimistic refresher as to why the fight is necessary, the KCP has a fascinating event on tap Friday night at the Wheeler Opera House.

Dubbed “From Everest to Aspen: The End of Ice,” the event will feature a presentation by renowned mountaineer and filmmaker David Breashears, followed by a conversation between Breashears, Francis and Mario Molina, executive director of Protect Our Winters. The discussion, as the event title suggests, will revolve around the rapidly receding glaciers in the Himalayas and elsewhere, a subject Breashears, a five-time Everest summiter, is as qualified as anyone to talk about.

“David has been working in the Himalayas, helping people be aware of what’s going on with the glaciers,” said Francis. “He wants to bring awareness around the world about how our systems are so connected – not only in low moisture in the roots of trees, which leads to higher fire danger, but also in how burning can create ash on snow that makes the snowpack melt faster, leading to fluctuations in river systems. All of these things are impacting people all over the world.”

It’s a major issue (whether I, you or anyone else believes it), one that all of us could stand to be more cognizant of. Tomorrow night, it’ll be put out there front and center by someone who’s virtually a god in the high-altitude community. And when God speaks (in the form of disappearing glaciers, for example), we all would be well advised to listen. That’s the first step toward reversing that confounded curve.

The Wheeler doors open at 5 p.m. and the presentations begin at 5:30.

Todd Hartley is the special sections editor for Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at

Special Sections Editor