In the eyes of much of the world, competitive cycling is threatened most by its headline-grabbing doping scandal. Just a few weeks ago, disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong claimed it was “impossible” to win the Tour de France without taking performance enhancing drugs. But it turns out climate change might be more of a threat to the sport — and its famous race — than doping.
An article in Quartz Friday looked at moderate and extreme climate change projections in France for 2050 and 2100. It found that, in a moderate warming scenario, temperatures in the south of France will increase by 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050, with spikes of eight or nine degrees under an extreme warming scenario, causing potentially “brutal” conditions for cyclists. Extreme weather poses a big threat to the sport too — this year, some cyclists in a major race in Italy crashed because of the race’s rainy, wet conditions. The article points out that cycling, even more than other sports, has a lot to lose from climate change:
Rising temperatures and increasingly severe storms threaten the Tour de France more so than any other professional sporting event, snowsports aside. The Tour requires traversable roads at the highest Alpine passes and fan-friendly temperatures on the streets of Paris. Without those two conditions, the Tour cannot be both sufficiently challenging and commercially successful. And obviously, the race can’t be held in an air-conditioned dome, like a soccer match.
Cycling is far from the only sport threatened by climate change, however. Winter sports are, of course, among those already affected most by increasing temperatures — a mild winter forced Olympic officials to ship in thousands of tons of snow to Vancouver in 2010, and Russia is already stockpiling snow for the 2014 Olympics. Alaska’s Iditarod dog sled race hasn’t started in its traditional point in Wasilla in more than a decade, because there hasn’t been enough snow there. As snowfall becomes lighter and less reliable, the $12.2 billion winter sports industry in the U.S. could take major hits: according to one study, by 2039 more than half of the 103 ski resorts in the Northeast U.S. will have to cut their seasons to fewer than 100 days if certain warming scenarios prove to be accurate.
The threat worries winter athletes: In April, 75 winter Olympians wrote a letter calling on President Obama to address climate change so that their sports might be saved.
But it’s not just winter sports that are in jeopardy because of warming temperatures. Heat waves, especially in the South, are making high school football a potentially deadly activity. A March snowstorm created unusual conditions for a World Cup qualifying match in Denver — strange weather that could become more common in a changing climate. And as water temperatures rise and yearly snowmelt decreases, trout habitats are becoming more and more unstable, threatening the sport of flyfishing.