GSB News and Notes: Olympic Athletes Take Climate Stand, Pro Skier Endorses Carbon Pricing, Ex-NFLer Goes Solar

Celebrating and finding more eco-athletes is one of GreenSportsBlog’s key initiatives for 2016. Their numbers are small but growing. And, as we honor the athletes of the world at tonight’s Olympics Opening Ceremonies in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, GSB celebrates with a News & Notes column solely devoted to eco-athletes.

 

OLYMPIC ATHLETES SPEAK OUT ON CLIMATE CHANGE

GreenSportsBlog has, along with almost every other media outlet covering the Rio Olympics, reported on the environmental disasters surrounding the Games, in particular the awful conditions at the outdoor water sports venues—sailing, rowing and triathlon swim. Click here, here and here for a “Dirty (Rio) Water” refresher.

Not all Olympics environmental stories are negative. Earlier this week, we shared how Dow Chemical, Official Carbon Partner of Rio 2016, is working to offset the Games’ carbon footprint with offset, energy efficiency and education projects that will live long after the Olympic Flame is doused.

But, as the Opening Ceremony approaches, we’ve not heard from the Olympic athletes themselves on environmental issues.

Until now, that is.

Climate Change News is reporting that Olympians from Afghanistan, the Marshall Islands and South Sudan — all countries especially vulnerable to climate change — as well as other nations, are speaking out to raise awareness about the dangers of global warming of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. This was the ceiling on warming that was agreed to by over 190 countries at the Paris Climate Conference (COP 21) last December. The athletes have produced a brilliant 30 second video (see below), “1.5°C, The record We Must Not Break,” and are using the hashtag #Sport4Climate to promote it via social media.

1.5°C, The record We Must Not Break

This is just the type of eco-activism that athletes can get behind: It uses the universal positive notion that permeates all sports—that of records being made to be broken—with the warning that this record; the 1.5°C record, is one that must never be breached.

My guess is that NBC will not run this video as a public service announcement (PSA) during the Games but they should.

PRO SKIER ANGEL COLLINSON ENDORSES CARBON FEE AND DIVIDEND PROPOSAL

Daughter of a Snowbird, UT Ski Patroller, professional alpine and big mountain skier Angel Collinson is a product of a family that lived and breathed the mountains. So, as she noticed winters getting “shorter, warmer, less predictable, with consistently less snowfall,” she became an activist. Ms. Collinson joined Protect Our Winters (POW), a group of elite snow sports athletes whose mission is to help lead the fight against climate change. It does this through education, advocacy and community-based activism. 

Angel Collinson skiing

Angel Collinson, professional skier and advocate for Carbon Fee & Dividend. (Photo credit: Skiing Magazine)

 

Ms. Collinson is taking the advocacy part of POW’s mission to heart as she recently endorsed Carbon Fee and Dividend (CF&D), a market-based, revenue neutral, carbon pricing legislative proposal making its way through Congress, sponsored by Citizens’ Climate Lobby^ (CCL).  As she notes in the 2 minute video below, the snow sports industry supports over 960,000 jobs and generates $66 billion in annual economic activity, which means climate change is an existential threat to ways of life, health and livelihoods and thus must be slowed down or reversed.

Angel Collinson endorses the Carbon Fee & Dividend carbon pricing proposal from Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

Ms. Collinson’s preferred mechanism is Carbon Fee & Dividend. Here’s the gist: A price is placed on carbon based fuels at the well, mine or, in the case of imports, at the border. Funds raised are then returned to American households directly in the form of a monthly dividend.

She understands that perhaps the key virtue of CF&D’s revenue neutral, market-based approach is the potential, albeit slight at this point, of garnering a modicum of Republican support. Getting an even small cache of GOP members of the House and Senate is crucial for a carbon pricing scheme to have a chance at long term success. Thus, while there are many Democrat-only carbon pricing bills making the rounds of the House and Senate, those have little to no chance of passage. On the other hand, after years of lobbying almost all members of both houses, and gaining interest among some Republicans, CCL sees some light at the end of the tunnel: Executive Director Mark Reynolds guaranteed in June that CF&D will pass sometime in 2017.

My bet is that Angel Collinson will be lobbying house members and senators from snow states as hard as she skis.

TIM DWIGHT: FROM THE NFL TO SOLAR ADVOCATE

In “From Kick Returns to Solar Panels,” si.com’s Melissa Jacobs takes readers on Tim Dwight’s fascinating journey from NFL wide receiver and kick returner to solar power advocate. The 5′ 8″ Dwight retired at 33 with in 2007 after a 10 year NFL career as a beloved figure. Yet, per Jacobs, Dwight “had an innate desire to be defined by something else.” 

That something else turned out to be as a solar power advocate.

Dwight got started a year after leaving the NFL, investing in Integrated Power Corporation, a Novato, CA, based company that provides solar power to commercial customers. As Jacobs notes, Dwight “immersed himself in fundamental questions. Where was this industry going? What was the scientific foundation? And could solar ever truly compete with traditional energy sources?”

Dwight’s investigation and early experiences turned him into a true solar believer. He quickly got the basic science, telling Jacobs, “Climate change is real. Glaciers are melting.” HALLELUJAH!

Tim Dwight

Former NFL star and current solar power advocate Tim Dwight. (Photo credit: Tim Dwight)

 

So he moved to California, the state with the highest per capita concentration of solar panels in the country, to learn the business. The former University of Iowa standout then moved back to the Hawkeye state in 2011 to bring the power of solar home. He soon became president of the newly formed iSETA (Iowa Solar Energy Trade Association), advocating on behalf of the industry to legislators in Des Moines. 

The natural skepticism that he was merely trading on his name served as motivation for Dwight to show the state’s political power brokers that there was indeed a market for solar.  He got involved in a wide range of projects, from commercial to residential. As Dwight told Jacobs, “I would show [state legislators] these projects and they were like, whoa, this isn’t 12 miles of projects, this is 400 miles of projects. These are not $20,000 investments, they’re $400,000 (italics mine). Seeing the growth, the projects, it hit home.”

Dwight’s advocacy has paid some serious dividends: He was part of a team that successfully lobbied for an Iowa state solar tax credit which passed in 2012. Initially valued at $1.5 million, it has grown to $5 million today. 

^ I am a volunteer citizen lobbyist with CCL

 

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