Global warming threatens future winter Olympics

Climate change is shortening winter and melting glaciers, which could have severe consequences for the future of the Winter Olympics this century, the World Resources Institute (WRI) warns.

Climate scientists estimate that half of the world’s alpine glaciers could disappear in the next 100 years, states the WRI. For example, in the US, Montana’s Glacier National Park had 150 glaciers in 1850, but all of them are predicted to have disappeared by 2030. The effect will also impact on tourism in Europe, with the snowline in the Swiss-French Alps predicted to rise, and several low-lying skiing resorts in Austria are expected to remain as green fields all year round.

“Global warming threatens future Winter Olympic Games because it is resulting in less snow, and shorter and warmer winters,” said WRI president, Jonathan Lash. “Just as Salt Lake has done, we urge potential host cities to seriously consider the consequences of global warming in planning future Winter Olympic Games.” The Salt Lake games have been certified as climate neutral, a WRI spokesman told edie, with its greenhouse gas emissions being offset.

The alternative to natural snow, that generated by a snow-making machine, are gluttons for water, a resource that may be in short supply over the next 25 years, says Dr Nancy Kete, director of WRI’s Climate, Energy and Pollution Programme. “Global warming’s impact on winter sports and the economies that depend on them give us a good opportunity to face the unimaginable,” she said.

In November last year, the Olympic movement announced that sport can be a powerful agent for change, and as such should be used to promote sustainable development (see related story).

The next Winter Olympic Games will be held in Torino, Italy in 2006. Andorra, Switzerland, China, Spain, Korea, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Canada have all submitted applications to host the 2010 Winter Games.

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