As the Sochi games continue to exhibit less than ideal conditions for the Winter Olympics, more than 100 Olympians have signed onto a petition urging world leaders to address climate change on a global scale.
Their claim is simple: a failure to address climate change will jeopardize winter sports and the Winter Olympics.
The 105 athletes who signed the petition (85 are American) are teaming up with Protect Our Winters, a climate change advocacy group started in 2007 by snowboarder Jeremy Jones. The petition, known as Olympic Athletes Against Climate Change, calls for countries to reduce their heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions, embrace clean energy alternatives, and prepare to push for a solution or agreement at the United Nations’ climate convention that will be held in Paris next year.
“The fall training camps that I used to participate in when I was a student at Stratton Mountain School in Stratton, Vermont, are not really feasible any more due to lack of snow and warmer conditions,” American snowboarder Alex Deibold told USA Today. “I want my kids and their kids to be able to enjoy the outdoors the same way I did.”
“Vancouver was a wake-up call,” Chris Steinkamp, executive director at POW said, adding that warm weather at the Vancouver Games in 2010 necessitated shipments of extra snow and caused practice delays or cancellations in snowboarding and other events. Temperatures in the high 60s have caused similar problems in Sochi, where snowboarders have said the half-pipe is too bumpy due to a lack of snow.
Climate change denier Anthony Watts offered a counter point to the petition pointing out that only 4% of Winter Olympians have signed on to the petition and arguing that the problem is not with climate change but that Sochi is not climatically ideal for the Winter Games. According to a recent study, though, Sochi and eight other previous Winter Olympic hosts would not have a climate conducive to hosting the Winter Games by 2050 should the world’s current rate of emissions fail to decrease significantly.
Climate change has been affecting the way we play sports for some time now as increasingly rarer occurrences of frozen ponds in Northern America and Canada have caused fewer children to become invested in playing hockey and warmer summers have created dangerous conditions for playing sports like football or basketball in the summer. Climate change has also affected the business of winter sports industries, as a recent report found that the skiing industry has lost out on $1 billion due to diminished snow fall patterns.
“We know that as the snow pack declines, the sobering economic impacts start to impact communities everywhere,” Steinkamp said. “Having this quantity and caliber of Olympians make this statement this week should be a clear wake up call for world leaders.”