Michael Gross: A zero-carbon future will help Tahoe’s economy thrive

Other Voices
Michael Gross

In August, a bipartisan group of local, state and federal government leaders from California and Nevada gathered for the 23rd annual Lake Tahoe Summit to discuss threats to and solutions for protecting the Lake Tahoe Basin. This year offered an opportunity to learn from past successes and discuss how to address some of the new challenges facing the lake — including efforts to combat the effects of climate change.

The impacts of climate change can already be seen and felt throughout the region. So, it should not come as a surprise that climate change was front and center throughout the day’s conversations.

As a ski resort in the heart of Tahoe, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows is acutely aware of the threats climate change poses to the economy, environment and communities around the basin. We see those threats firsthand with an increase in devastating wildfires, more variable snowfall and a forest ecosystem that is more susceptible to disease and invasive species.

Home to spectacular views and world-renowned skiing, hiking and rock climbing, our area is a hub for outdoor recreation and tourism. In fact, our economy and people rely on the natural resources surrounding Lake Tahoe—which are currently at risk due to the changing climate. We must act swiftly to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions nationwide if we want to ensure future generations are able to enjoy the same Lake Tahoe we know and love today.

Lake Tahoe’s location exemplifies the need for increased collaboration between the public and private sectors, and across levels of government, if we are to address the climate challenge …

Squaw Alpine recognizes our responsibility to do our part to protect the legendary mountains and iconic landscape we call home. That’s why we are taking action to tackle climate change by reducing our own carbon footprint and advocating for smart climate policies.

For us, that means powering our operations with 100% clean and renewable sources of energy, and investing in a variety of energy efficiency measures and electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in our facilities. These investments are about more than doing the right thing: they also help us cut our operating costs and lock in predictable energy prices.

This commitment to reducing GHG emissions also extends beyond our own operations because we know we cannot address the climate challenge on our own. We need both state and federal policy solutions to reduce emissions, strengthen our economy and protect the natural resources that our employees and customers depend upon so deeply.

Squaw Alpine is among the growing number of companies speaking out in support of climate and clean energy policies. In 2016, Squaw Alpine joined the Ceres BICEP Network, a coalition of more than 50 major companies advocating for solutions to decarbonize the economy. Through that partnership, we have weighed in on efforts to expand clean energy in both California and in Nevada, ensuring that the two states surrounding the Lake Tahoe Basin are able to capture the many economic and environmental benefits of a zero-carbon future. We are also pleased to see more serious climate solutions proposed in Congress—including the recent Climate Action Rebate Act that was introduced by the Summit’s host, California Sen. Diane Feinstein, and which includes a binding goal of net-zero GHG emissions by 2050.

Set in the mountains between California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe’s location exemplifies the need for increased collaboration between the public and private sectors, and across levels of government, if we are to address the climate challenge and meet our long-term goals. Both companies and our political leaders must take bold action to curb carbon emissions and embrace clean energy. We urge lawmakers at all levels of government to advance policies that will help us transition to a zero-carbon economy. The companies and residents of the Lake Tahoe River Basin are counting on it.

Michael Gross is director of sustainability and risk management at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows.

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