Too Warm for Future Winter Olympic Games?

I’ll admit it – I’m an Olympics junkie. And I have a fondness for the Winter Games because I’m an alpine skier (if only for a week or so each year). So, I read the New York Times article, “The End of Snow?,” last Sunday with nostalgia for games gone by and anxiety for those to come. Porter Fox, an editor for Powder Magazine, examines why it’s no coincidence that the temperature of these grand events keeps going up and why ski areas throughout the Northern hemisphere are already feeling the economic effects of global warming. One Canadian climatologist forecasts that of the 19 cities that have hosted the Winter Games, only 10 will be cold enough to do so by 2050 and only 6 by 2100. This certainly spells trouble for the winter sports industry which employs nearly one million people in the U.S., but even more importantly for the billion people worldwide who rely on snowmelt for their fresh water supply, including 70 million in the western U.S.

Climate change is back in the news this winter with doubters pointing to wintry weather in parts of the U.S. as evidence that it’s a hoax, and Tennessee GOP Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn debating science educator Bill Nye on Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” arguing that there’s no consensus among scientists on climate change and that the difference between 320 and 400 ppm of carbon is only “slight.”(and she’s the Vice Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee!) While some may argue that such debates create false equivalencies or that Bill Nye isn’t a climatologist but a science educator and entertainer, I would argue that it is educators who need to emphasize the facts and trends in a compelling way for the public and students. That is why the new Next Generation Science Standards include climate studies across the grade levels and why we feature the human-climate connection in our curricula. Check out our Climate Change unit in Earth Matters: Studies for Our Global Future plus some great classroom resources from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

As for me, I’ll keep watching our athletes in Sochi and hoping our global community can come together to keep snow on our mountains for skiers, snowboarders and our thirsty world.