Derek Jeter, Iditarod & Climate Change? Who Knew!

To those in the Climate Change fight, the media is often seen as being largely absent in reporting on the issue. The lack of coverage by the 3 major cable news networks of Monday’s release of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) report detailing the current effects of climate change is only the latest example. There may be some slight winds of change blowing in terms of media coverage of the intersection of Green & Sports per the following two stories. 

The New York Times’ published a story on Tuesday by Matt Furber that might have appeared to some as an April Fools prank. But his piece linking the record times in the Iditarod Trail Invitational (ITI) in Alaska last month to the effects of climate change was very real.  

I have to admit I did not even know the ITI–a 1,000 mile cycling or running race, NOT the Iditarod Dogsled race–even existed. Well, it does and it has to be among the most grueling athletic contests in the world. The fact that only a few dozen racers have ever completed the race is a testament to its difficulty.

Furber highlights that 2014 was unlike any other year, both in terms of the California-like temperatures (60s) during much of the race and the incredibly fast times that resulted, mainly, from riding/running on ground rather than snow for much of the race.  The fastest finish before this year was 15 days in 2000. 2014 was very different: 3 racers finished in 12 days or faster, with the winner, Jeff Oatley, making it in an incredible 10 days.

Jeff Oatley

Jeff Oatley, winner of the 2014 Ititarod Trail Invitational. Unusually warm temperatures for the Alaskan winter (up to 60 degrees) resulted in long stretches of snow-less-ness. Oatley was thus able to traverse the 1,000 miles in 10 days, breaking the old record by an incredible 5 days (Photo Credit: Jeff Oatley/New York Times)

 

And, while the writer clearly and rightly states that climate change cannot be cited as the reason for a warm 1-2 weeks, he does make the point that this year’s warm Alaskan winter is part of a longer, broader trend that does indicate climate change.  Furber quotes well known climate scientist Dr. Kevin Trenberth at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, who said “Alaska is already seeing many signs of climate change and will be profoundly affected.”

—-

Derek Jeter’s final season Farewell Tour is, understandably, getting a ton of attention. An under-the-radar aspect of the Jeter story is that his supply of bats from white ash trees, treasured for strength and flexibility, is under threat.

This was brought to light on Monday by Brian Bienkowski of The Daily Climate, a terrific independently-owned website, based in Charlottesville, VA, dedicated to “working to increase public understanding of climate change, including its scope and scale, potential solutions and the political processes that impede or advance them.”

Bienkowski details how a tiny beetle, the Emerald Ash Borer, is threatening the northern Pennsylvania forests that for more than a century have supplied wood for bats, Louisville Slugger in particular. Experts say climate change may alter just how far north the tree-killing pest will spread and that the ash forests are at high risk now and in the near future.

jeter slugger

Derek Jeter swinging a Louisville Slugger bat made of ash. Emerald Ash Borers (a type of beetle) have migrated further north in recent years as the climate has warmed. They threaten the ash trees used for Jeter’s and other major leaguers’ bats. (Photo Credit: Hillerich & Bradsby)

Hillerich & Bradsby Co., the parent company of Louisville Slugger, says that while they haven’t seen a drop in output of the ash bats today, they are adapting and diversifying. That’s why you see Louisville Sluggers made of yellow birch and maple. Problem is, the maple bats break more easily.

Thankfully for Jeter, the supply of ash bats will certainly last through his final campaign. As he makes his farewell tour through American (and a couple National) League ballparks, opposing clubs should forget about feting him with cheesy rocking chairs or golf clubs. No, they should give him ash bats.  Forget the Jeter autograph–they’ll be worth something because they are ash.

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3 thoughts on “Derek Jeter, Iditarod & Climate Change? Who Knew!

  1. Good question. Alaska, while being among the most vulnerable areas in North America to climate change, is addicted to the oil and gas revenues that their pipelines provide. So concern about carbon pollution is mixed at best there. Now, in the Winter Sports Community there actually is a lot of interest. A bunch of (mainly American) winter sports athletes have banded together to express their concern about the climate crisis and to try and press for action via Protect Our Winters: http://protectourwinters.org/#sthash.vuXODtHr.IZXBFu5H.dpbs. Another such group is I Am Pro Snow: http://iamprosnow.org.

    Of course these are smallish groups but hopefully their voices are louder than their numbers would predict.

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