This year’s Winter Olympics has had its share of issues, but it seems future games will have to deal with a problem more complicated than packs of stray dogs and unfinished hotel rooms. Climate change could very well cause a Winter Olympics melt down – with unprecedented consequences.
Even before the Sochi games commenced, several athletes showed concern over warmer temperatures and slushy snow, making skiing and snowboarding events potentially dangerous. A year ago, in anticipation of these conditions, Russian officials stored almost 25 million cubic feet of snow, in case the slopes needed a dusting. Four years ago, when the games were held in Vancouver, helicopters, trucks and snow machines brought snow to game sites from higher elevations after temperatures were recorded at about seven degrees above average.
The conditions at Sochi and Vancouver don’t bode well for upcoming competitions. According to one study, only six of the past 19 Winter Olympic host cities will stay cold enough to possibly repeat their duties prior to 2099. And conditions for outdoor events like skiing and snowboarding could be out of the question in just 40 years, all due to global warming.
Several scientists recently stated that climate change will cause snowfall to increase, but length of winter seasons to decrease, resulting in snow melting faster— turning ski slopes into something that resembles a frosty treat your under 12’s can’t live without.
Human influence on the environment can only accelerate and exacerbate this problem. However, serious curtailing of carbon emissions could keep the Games running for many years to come, which is something the Olympic athletes have noted. One hundred and five of them wrote a letter to world leaders asking them to do something about this rapidly growing problem.
“Recognize climate change by reducing emissions, embracing clean energy and preparing a commitment to a global agreement at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris in 2015,” the letter stated.
More than just the Games are at stake, the athletes note. As snowfall decreases, so does water and food supply, and human and economic health. “Unless our governments can stop letting politics get in the way of common sense, we’re all in for some more sobering and painful environmental changes that will truly change the face of this planet.”