Global warming: Winter at risk?


Global warming means fewer powder days and shorter ski seasons. bberwyn photo.

Snow sports enthusiasts want limits on power plant greenhouse gas emissions

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Watching the snow in the Caucasus Mountains around Sochi melt away at an alarming rate during the middle of the Winter Olympics was a sobering reminder of what global warming could mean for the future of winter sports.

Already, winters in some parts of the world are several weeks shorter, with much higher average temperatures, than just a few decades ago. some ski areas in the lower elevations of the European Alps have already shut down, and in Scandinavia, where skiing is not just recreation but part of the cultural fabric, winters have warmed significantly.

“When it comes to the future of winter sports, global warming has us skating on thin ice,” said Anneli Berube, a field organizer with Environment Colorado, which teamed up with Snowriders International to release a summary of how climate change will affect winter, including increased rate of snow melt, shorter winters, drought, and a shrinking map of reliable sites for future winter Olympics.

Without dramatic cuts in greenhouse gases, the face of winter is likely to lose some of its alabaster glow, said Philip Huffeldt of Snowriders International.


“There’s still time to keep from sliding off the edge by going after the biggest sources of the carbon pollution fueling global warming.”

Sochi organizers stockpiled massive amounts of snow to guard against a shortage, and also installed extensive snowmaking technology, which only exacerbates the global problem because it’s so energy intensive. At at the Vancouver games four years ago, organizers had to bring snow to some venues in dumptrucks — because it was even too warm for snowmaking.

Snowriders International is launching a campaign to encourage the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants in the name of protecting winter sports.

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 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.

“A shorter snow season means less time to practice on the slopes – and less fun,” said Confluence Kayak and Ski owner Jonathan Kahn, who joined Environment Colorado and Snowriders International at a news conference. “And that’s true for regular folks like me just as much as our Olympic skiers.”

“We can expect to see later accumulating snow, early snowmelt, and less snow overall, punctuated by the occasional large snowfall,” said Dr. Mark Williams, a University of Boulder scientist who specializes in studying the Earth’s frozen realms. “It’s not all gloom and doom, but we have lots to do to reduce carbon pollution and lessen our impact on global warming.”

“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,” said Berube. “The fossil fuel industry and their allies in Congress are already lining up to block the president’s plan. Colorado’s leaders must show their support for climate action.”

“Artificial snow and skiing on grass won’t save our communities or our way of life, but saving winter by fighting global warming will,” Huffeldt concluded.



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