There has been an air of emotions as the world comes together to celebrate this year’s Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia. However, buried beneath the patriotism and excitement lies a problem that may bring a halt to the cherished winter games.
Climate change has proven to be a major threat to ecosystems and various living things on the planet - now it's also a threat to the future of the winter Olympics. In a recent study at the University of Waterloo, researchers analyzed the suitability of past locations of the Winter Olympics since 1981, based on warming scenarios likely to result from high and low carbon emissions. Even in low emission scenarios, 6 of the 19 sites were found unsuitable to host the winter games by 2080 due to temperatures being too high to sustain a winter environment. Under high emission scenarios, over two thirds of the sites would be unsuitable by the 2080s.
According to Daniel Scott, the Canada Research Chair in Global Change and Tourism at the University of Waterloo, “the competition is very close to wrapping up, and it will likely surpass Vancouver 2010, the warmest Winter Olympics ever recorded.”
Winter athletes are also alert on the issue of climate change. Many Olympians were faced with various physical challenges as they struggled to adapt to the slushy snow and thawing ice in performance. Cross country skier Andy Newell published an open letter calling for immediate action against the threat to winter sports, and various athletes have also written to politicians highlighting their concerns over climate change.
According to Newell, “many of us who spend our lives in the snow are more aware of its effects and have changed our lifestyles to be respectful of the health of the environment.”
Although it may be difficult to put ourselves in their shoes, we are inevitably all in this together. Climate change is not specific to one region of the world; it affects the planet as whole. Here are some things that you can do (and what many athletes are already doing) to negate the effects of climate change:
Recycling uses much less energy than acquiring raw materials from the ground or from trees, and reprocessing them into new goods.
Bike, bus or carpool to work
Human influence on climate change has shown to be predominantly from fossil fuel consumption, so why not lower your environmental footprint by biking to work instead? The extra exercise can’t be a bad thing either.
Growing crops for cattle, pigs, and other livestock produce more emissions than crops that go directly to humans for consumption. Eating less meat would reduce the demand for fertilizer as well as the amount of methane produced (another greenhouse gas). Russian Olympian Alexey Voevoda won the gold medal for two-man bobsledding, becoming a vegan athlete to win gold in Sochi!
Most importantly, it is critical that the proper policies are being put into effect to address the situation. It is crucial for us to stand in solidarity against climate change, and make it clear to our world leaders that we need them to make some progression.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Karissa Chandrakate is an environmental science graduate of McMaster University, with a strong environmental conscience. Since her graduation, she has been involved with various environmental organizations including Earth Day Hamilton-Burlington, Green Venture, and the Hamilton Naturalist Club. She takes a keen interest in environmental health, and hopes to bring awareness to the importance of environmental preservation. Some of Karissa's hobbies include martial arts, yoga, fitness and photography.