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Global warming has Winter Olympics skating on thin ice

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By Environment New Mexico

 

As the world turns its attention to the Sochi Olympic Games, Environment New Mexico revealed a summary of global warming impacts on Winter Olympic sports, and highlighting the need to act urgently to reduce the carbon pollution fueling global warming.

“When it comes to the future of winter sports, global warming has us skating on thin ice,” said Dominick Lawton, field associate with Environment New Mexico. “There’s still time to keep from sliding off the edge by going after the biggest sources of the carbon pollution fueling global warming.” 

Environment New Mexico pointed to increased rate of snow melt, shorter winters, drought, and a shrinking map of reliable winter host sites, as climate impacts are 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 United State. 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. 

“For ski areas in the Southern Rockies, climate change is a very real threat,” said Adriana Blake, admin manager at Taos Ski Valley. “Without serious policy changes to act on global warming, the ski industry in New Mexico will be in real danger of failing — or of dealing with a winter season that doesn’t begin until way after Christmas, which would not be a season at all.”

The Winter Olympic Games aren’t the only victims of climate change — scientists are seeing global warming’s fingerprints on New Mexico’s recent dry spells, and its summer wildfires. Meanwhile, extreme weather, and air pollution worsened by heat waves, are already exacting a huge toll on New Mexicans’ public health and safety.

“Things will only get worse for us and our children if we fail to take swift and bold action now,” said Zachary Sharp, Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of New Mexico.

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