Winter sports and Olympics on thin ice due to global warming

Media release from the David Suzuki Foundation

The future of winter sports, including the winter Olympics, is at risk due to global warming, according to On Thin Ice, a report released today by the David Suzuki Foundation. “By 2050, if we fail to take immediate action on climate change, a whole range of winter activities across Canada, from Olympic sports like skiing and snowboarding to iconic Canadian pastimes such as ice fishing and pond hockey, will be jeopardized,” says report author and Foundation climate change specialist, Ian Bruce.

Warmer winter temperatures mean less snow and ice, and shorter winter seasons. Environment Canada data show that the snow season in Eastern and Western Canada has decreased by nearly two and five weeks, respectively, over the past 50 years.

“As Canadians, our identity and our future are closely connected with winter. The impact on winter sports that we are already seeing is an early warning sign of how vulnerable we are to climate change. This is a call to action for all Canadians, including our political leaders,” says David Suzuki.

The economic stakes are high in Canada for winter sports events and tourism. Winter tourism, including festivals and cultural events, provides an estimated $5 billion each year to the Canadian economy and the ski sector alone contributes $839 million annually. Winter sports in Canada’s largest ski markets, Ontario and Quebec, will be among the hardest hit by climate change. “Runaway climate change would deliver a serious blow to Quebec’s winter tourism industry–which currently contributes about $1.5 billion annually to Quebec’s economy,” says Karel Mayrand, director of the David Suzuki Foundation’s office in Quebec.

Winter sports industries and events have an opportunity to be leaders in climate action. As part of the recommendations in its report, the David Suzuki Foundation is calling for the Vancouver organizers of the 2010 Olympics to take responsibility for the event’s full climate impact.

“As a winter athlete, I’ve seen the face of global warming first hand. It only makes sense for the winter sports community to play a role in inspiring Canadians to act on climate change. At the 2010 Olympics, I want Canada to be a leader not just on the slopes, but in tackling climate change,” says Olympic snowboarder Justin Lamoureux.

On Thin Ice offers comprehensive climate solutions geared to every sector of society, including winter sports enthusiasts and industries, the Vancouver Olympic organizers and governments. Recommendations include:

  • Ensuring that all major emissions from the 2010 Olympic Games, including spectator air travel, are measured, reduced where possible, and offset.
  • Developing a national climate change action strategy for Canada’s winter tourism and ski industry to advance government climate change policy as well as solutions for the industry, including required targets for renewable energy power.
  • Implementing an action plan to meet Canada’s international commitments by reducing emissions to safe levels as supported by science (25 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, and at least 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050).

Download the full report (pdf).


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