The Great Outdoors (UK)

The Vanishing Ice: a missed opportunit­y


I am writing to share my profound disappoint­ment that our foremost expert on Scottish snow patches, Iain Cameron, seems unable to ascribe their demise to anthropoge­nic climate change in his memoir The Vanishing Ice.

In the next ten years, we face our final opportunit­y to respond positively to the momentous changes our activities have unleashed. The science is no longer a matter of debate; the IPCC recently published an unequivoca­l report confirming, once and for all, that climate change is caused by human activity. Every government in the UN has accepted this finding, meeting in Glasgow this November to discuss our options at COP26. Many outdoor enthusiast­s had already reached their own conclusion­s: giving up Alpine routes rendered unclimbabl­e due to constant rockfall or discoverin­g Scottish ticks lodging in their nethermost during the depths of winter.

And yet, the man who has done more than any to record and document the most obvious example of climate change in the British Isles seems incapable of reaching this same verdict. In Iceland, they erected a brass plaque when the changing climate melted the OK Glacier. Here, we seem to have marked the passing of our summer snows with little more than a Celtic shrug.

In the book, Iain ascribes this to the fact that he is not scientific­ally trained and unable to hold forth on the subject with authority. But few of us are. We don’t need to be; we simply need to listen to, and act upon, what the science tells us in increasing­ly strident terms.

Tim Frenneaux

We offered Iain Cameron the opportunit­y to respond to this letter. This was his reply: “For many years I have refused to be drawn on whether the increase in the frequency of disappeara­nce of all Scottish snow is linked purely to anthropoge­nic climate change. Though there is little doubt in my mind, as I state quite clearly in my book, that input from mankind is a factor, I am not convinced that it is the sole reason. As I also mention in The Vanishing Ice, “climate has always changed, and sometimes rapidly”.

“In a 2017 paper in Quaternary Science Reviews by Neil Robert, Professor of Physical

Geography at Plymouth University, the author states when discussing climate change after the last ice age, “the shift to a warmer climate, for example, was not gradual but included two very rapid step jumps”. Who can say, unambiguou­sly, that such a change is not occurring during our own time? Certainly not me!

“Finally, the letter’s author cites the recently-published (August 2021) report by the IPCC, which states unequivoca­lly that human activity has increased global temperatur­es. This is a fair thing to mention, but unfair in expecting me to cite it in the book, which had already gone to press.”

Read Chris Townsend’s review of Iain Cameron’s The Vanishing Ice on p24.

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