Global Warming has Winter Games Skating on Thin Ice

Media Releases

PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center

Philadelphia, PA  – As the world turns its attention to the Sochi Olympic Games, PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center has revealed a summary of global warming’s impacts on Winter Olympic sports, highlighting the need for action to reduce the carbon pollution that is fueling climate change.  Pennsylvania has experienced substantial snowfall this winter, but PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center’s summary shows an overarching pattern of winters shortening, snow melting faster, and climate change undermining the sports we all celebrate during the Winter Olympics. 
“When it comes to the future of winter sports, global warming has us skating on thin ice,” said Elowyn Corby, Global Warming and Clean Energy Associate with PennEnvironment. “There’s still time to keep from sliding off the edge by going after the biggest sources of the carbon pollution fueling global warming.”
PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center pointed to increased rate of snow melt, shorter winters, drought, and a shrinking map of reliable winter host sites as evidence that climate change is 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. Pennsylvania ranks 3rd in the country for most carbon pollution from its power plants. 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.
“Each year our season seems to grow shorter and we are faced with cancelling or rescheduling races leaving less and less time for our athletes to train,” said John McGregor, President of the Pennsylvania Alpine Racing Association.  “In Pennsylvania we have produced some outstanding athletes who have competed on an international level quite successfully.  Many of our elite athletes are forced to spend considerable amounts to travel to snow for training rather than training at home.”
The Winter Olympic Games aren’t the only victims of climate change – scientists are seeing global warming’s fingerprints on extreme weather like Superstorm Sandy, while sea level rise, extreme weather, and air pollution worsened by heat waves are already exacting a huge toll on Pennsylvania’s public health and safety.
“Cold weather and natural snowfall are critical to the region’s tourism industry,” said Julie Donovan, vice president of public relations for the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau. “We make a significant investment in promoting the region’s winter sports, which create jobs and help grow the region’s economy.”
“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 Corby. “The fossil fuel industry and their allies in Congress are already lining up to block the president’s plan.  Pennsylvania’s leaders must show their support for climate action.”