Global Warming has Winter Games Skating on Thin Ice

Media Releases

Environment Minnesota

Minneapolis, MN – As the world turns its attention to the Sochi Olympic Games, Environment Minnesota revealed a summary of global warming impacts on Winter Olympic sports, and highlighting the need to act urgently to reduce the carbon pollution fueling global warming.

“When it comes to the future of winter sports, global warming has us skating on thin ice,” said Hanna Terwilliger, Clean Energy Associate, with Environment Minnesota. “There’s still time to keep from sliding off the edge by going after the biggest sources of the carbon pollution fueling global warming.”

Environment Minnesota pointed to increased rate of snow melt, shorter winters, drought, and a shrinking map of reliable winter host sites, as climate impacts are threatening the Winter Olympic Games. They also warned that unchecked global warming could accelerate these changes. At the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, organizers trucked in and manufactured tons of extra snow. The unusually warm conditions that trigger these extreme measures could become the new normal.

Power plants that burn fossil fuels like coal and gas are the largest sources of carbon pollution in the U.S. But while there are limits on smog, soot, and other dangerous pollution from power plants, there are no federal limits on the industrial carbon pollution power plants emit.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is accepting public comments on its proposal to start limiting carbon pollution from new power plants, and plans to propose limits on carbon from existing power plants in June. Americans have already submitted 4 million comments to the EPA supporting limits on carbon pollution from power plants.

“Climate change has certainly affected our sport of Nordic skiing,” said Spencer Davis, President of the University of Minnesota’s Nordic Ski Team. “This year we have seen abnormal weather in the form of extreme cold temperatures, but the previous two seasons were skied almost entirely on manmade snow. Conditions of the Nordic ski courses at the Olympics have certainly been surprising. Soft and slushy conditions have led to difficult waxing conditions and many unfortunate falls.”

The Winter Olympic Games aren’t the only victims of climate change – scientists are seeing global warming’s fingerprints on extreme weather such as dangerous hailstorms and the polar vortex which are already exacting a huge toll on Minnesotan’s public health and safety.

“President Obama has committed to protecting our children and grandchildren from the worst impacts of global warming, but the EPA’s proposal to limit carbon pollution from power plants is not yet in place,” concluded Terwilliger. “The fossil fuel industry and their allies in Congress are already lining up to block the president’s plan. Minnesota’s leaders must show their support for climate action.”

Environment Minnesota is a statewide citizen based environmental organization working for clean air, clean water, and open space