As the world prepares to be dazzled by the impressive talent on display at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, a new study shows that climate change could be a risk for future games. Temperatures are warming which is changing weather patterns and winter conditions all over the world.
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said that the planet is likely to see global temperatures rise anywhere from 0.3 to 4.8 degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century. This warming could cause decreased snow fall and ice coverage in the Northern Hemisphere. Those who aren't fond of frigid temperatures might not mind the change, but it could have a negative impact on winter sports.
Last April, 75 winter sports champions wrote a letter to President Obama, urging him to take action on climate change and clean energy. They said, "As professional athletes, representing a community of 23 million sports enthusiasts, we're witnessing climate change first-hand. Last year was the warmest year on record and once again we're experiencing another winter season of inconsistent snow and questionable extremes. Without a doubt, winter is in trouble."
They go on to explain that the implications of climate change go beyond wrecking conditions for skiing. Winter tourism is a $12.2 billion industry that supports more than 200,000 jobs and supplies state and federal governments with tax dollars.
On a global level, the Winter Olympics are an international focal point. In 2010, the event boasted more than 2,500 athletes from 82 countries competing for 86 metals. The events are so popular that they are broadcast in more than 200 countries with an estimated reach of 3.8 billion people across the globe. What would happen to these sports and the economy if we lived in a world without winter?
Past Olympic hosts no longer suitable to host the games
A study by the University of Waterloo in Canada and the Management Centre Innsbruck in Austria found that only six of the past 19 locations for the Winter Olympic Games would be suitable to host the games again this century.
That's because continued warming will affect weather conditions that made these locations perfect for winter sports in the first place. According the report, February temperatures at these locations are predicted to rise 1.9 to 2.1 degrees Celsius by 2050 and 2.7 to 4.4 degrees Celsius by 2080 depending on greenhouse gas levels. Soon, it will just be too warm in these cities to hold any type of winter sport.
Save the Olympics, combat climate change
Unfortunately a lot of damage has already been done to the environment. The atmosphere is swimming in greenhouse gases attributed to climate change. But that doesn't mean we have to continue on a destructive path. A number of nations have committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions within their jurisdiction while the global community has vowed to limit enough emissions to only increase global temperatures 2 degrees Celsius by 2025.
Although it may seem like a daunting task, there are plenty of ways you can help combat climate change.
- Buy green energy. According to the International Energy Agency, the world needs to get about 48 percent of its energy consumption from renewable resources to limit a temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius. But supporting green energy can help spur the growth of the renewable energy sector to make clean power a reality.
- Limit travel. Fuel is a major cause of emissions, so if you limit your travel, you limit your impact. Flying is the biggest environmental burden, so avoid it whenever possible. Driving is also harmful, so try not to get in your car unless it's absolutely necessary. Instead, walk or bike to work. If that's not possible, public transportation is also a greener option.
- Be energy-efficient. Make it a point to use less energy in your everyday life. Turn out the lights when they aren't in use, unplug electronics and weather strip your home. There are tons of things you can do to save energy that will not only improve your carbon footprint but save you money too.