Team Climate & the 2014 Winter Olympics
Yale University’s Team Climate is joining forces with Olympians to bring a climate change dialogue to the 2014 Winter Olympics. Winter sports athletes are firsthand witnesses to climate change. From year to year, they are seeing their cherished mountain landscapes transformed with less snowfall and melting glaciers. They are watching as global leaders fail to act on this urgent crisis. Without intervention, the winter sports industry will melt away with the snow. Olympians are ready to share their personal experiences with climate change. They are asking global leaders to take action.
Climate Change Is Transforming Mountain Landscapes
According the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.”
In the Northern Hemisphere, the last thirty years were warmer than any other of the last 1,400 years.
Snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has decreased in March and April by 1.6% per decade and in June by 11.7% per decade for the last thirty years.
Winter temperatures are projected to rise 4 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit before the end of the century.
Warmer winters will lead to shifts in precipitation from snow to rain, a shorter snow season, and decrease snow cover area.
In the West, snow depths could decline by 25 to 100 percent.
In the Northeast, the length of the snow season will be cut in half.
Climate Change Is Devastating the Winter Sports Economy
Compared to the catastrophic impacts that climate change will have around the globe, less snow for the ski industry may seem trivial. However the economic impact of low-snow years can devastate the winter tourism that many of these communities depend on.
During the 2009/10 season over 23 million people engaged in winter sports in the U.S. totaling to 59.8 million skier and snowboarder visits and 14.5 million snowmobile trips. This generated $12.2 billion in economic value to the U.S. economy based on local spending. Additionally, purchases of snow sports apparel, equipment and accessories generated over $2 billion.
Winter sports support 211,900 U.S. jobs. This amounts to $7 billion in salaries, wages, and benefits and $3.1 billion in local, state and federal taxes.
Over the last decade, the ski industry has lost $1.07 billion in aggregated revenue between low and high snow fall years. The corresponding employment impact is a loss of between 13,000 to 27,000 jobs.
Scientists predict that more than half of the 103 ski resorts in the Northeast are at risk of not being able to maintain a 100-day season by 2039.