The über-warm temperatures enveloping the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia—not surprising when the Winter Games take place in a TROPICAL CLIMATE within a climate changed environment–are becoming a big story. This provides NBC, the Olympic Network, with an opportunity to talk about climate change during the Games. Will they take it? So far, the answer is no.
Remember Cool Runnings, the 1993 Disney movie based on the true story of the Jamaican Bobsled team that charmed world at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary? The absurdity of tropical Jamaica fielding a team in a quintessentially winter sport was on display when one of the newly freezing bobsledders, through shivering, clattering teeth, happily proclaimed, “I’m feeling very Olympic today!”
If the Jamaicans first attempt at Olympic bobsledding was this year instead of 1988, the Reggae Boys would not feel very out of place temperature-wise as it’s expected to be 63 F on Thursday! This should not be a surprise because 1) the Sochi, which sits in a tropical zone next to the Black Sea, summer resort capital of the former Soviet Union and now Russia, is the warmest Winter Olympic host city ever, and 2) we’re in a climate-changed environment in which winter sports in particular are facing severe challenges that will only grow over time unless we take serious measures to reverse carbon pollution, starting very soon.
NBC, the Olympics network in the US, has reported that a few athletes in Sochi have said that the warm weather has adversely affected their performances over the first 4 days of competition (alpine and freestyle skiing and ski jumping mainly). They haven’t taken on the bigger picture story of climate change and its effects on winter sports.
Now, GSB knows NBC News and NBC Sports are very busy during these couple of weeks and thus may not want to dig for material because they have to air the always-moving “Up Close & Personal” human interest stories we love so much. So, as a public service to anyone at NBC’s Olympic units reading this blog, GSB is providing Olympic-Climate Change story leads for you, right here, right now:
- American Cross Country Skier Kikkan Randall and Snowboarder Alex Deibold penned a great column in support of Protect Our Winters (POW), a global environmental nonprofit focused on uniting and mobilizing the 65 million member global snow sports community to fight climate change. Money quote: “As pro athletes who spend our lives outdoors, it is clear that climate change is very real and it’s already taking its toll on the social and economic infrastructure that depends on consistent winters and snowpack.” (Note To LeBron James: If winter Olympians can say climate change is real, a summer Olympic gold medalist like you can say it too!)
- Jamie Anderson from South Lake Tahoe and the newly-minted gold medalist in Slopestyle Skiing, is avidly and openly green. My friend, and climate activist Harriet Shugarman interviewed Jamie about climate change before the Games for her terrific blog, Climate Mama. NBC, next time you talk to Jamie, ask her about climate change…or hire the Climate Mama!
- Finally, the best and most thoughtful and powerful piece on the existential threat climate change poses to winter sports (and beyond) comes from “The End of Snow?”, an OpEd from Sunday’s New York Times by Porter Fox, Features Editor at Powder magazine. Fox opines (and GSB heartily agrees) “greening the ski industry is commendable, but it isn’t nearly enough. Nothing besides a national policy shift on how we create and consume energy will keep our mountains white in the winter — and slow global warming to a safe level.” He gets that this is about much more than skiing: “It is about snow, a vital component of earth’s climate system and water cycle. When it disappears, what follows is a dangerous chain reaction of catastrophes like forest fires, drought, mountain pine beetle infestation, degraded river habitat, loss of hydroelectric power, dried-up aquifers and shifting weather patterns. Not to mention that more than a billion people around the world — including about 70 million in the western United States — rely on snowmelt for their fresh water supply.”
Jamie Anderson, Slopestyle Skiing Gold Medalist at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Anderson is one of several US Olympians who have expressed concerns about climate change and the need to do something about it. (Photo Credit: LA Times)
It would be great if NBC would see fit to interview one of these folks about climate change, even if it means one less uplifting story about an Olympic athlete overcoming [fill in the blank tragedy] airs. In fact, the opposite seems to be happening if today’s Morning Joe on MSNBC is any guide. During a discussion on the economy, one of the guests made an offhand remark about how cold it is in New York City, harrumphed about “so much for global warming” and the other guest added (with gravitas) “some are saying that a decline in solar activity is going to cause an ice age soon” (may slow the rate of warming slightly is about all that might happen).
Yikes! On second thought, forget about interviewing the Eco-Olympians; NBC should just go for the Gold and air a heartwarming “Up Close & Personal” vignette about their fight against climate change!