Winter Olympians urge world leaders to tackle climate change Media Release

Feb 12, 2014 - 12:49pm

Three Australians are among 105 Olympians, who have signed a letter calling on world leaders to take action on climate change and to prepare a commitment to a global agreement prior to the Paris climate talks in 2015.

The letter, authored by US Olympian Andrew Newell, calls on leaders to “recognize climate change by reducing emissions, embracing clean energy and preparing a commitment to a global agreement at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris 2015.”

“The urgency … is not to be taken lightly since time is definitely something we do not have on our side.”

The Australians who have signed the letter include freestyle skier and gold medallist Lydia Lassila and Olympians Nigel Spratt and Silvia Duman.

The letter comes as the Sochi games are on course to be the warmest winter Olympics in history.  Warm temperatures have wreaked havoc for the organisers and many athletes have complained about the poor conditions. 

The Climate Institute compiled and released today a Media Brief looking at the impacts of climate change on the Winter Olympics and the future of winter sport here in Australia. This includes a recent study that found that only six of the 19 locations that have hosted the Winter Olympics would have suitable conditions to host the event again by the late 21st century. This includes the most recent locations, Vancouver and Sochi.

University studies have shown that the maximum extent of Australian snowfields has reduced by up to 39 per cent over the past decade, and that by 2020, the Australian Alps could lose around 60 per cent of their snow cover. Other studies predict the ski slopes could be mostly bare of natural snow by 2050.

With the loss of snow, Australia is set to lose:
  • A snow tourism and services industry worth around $1.8 billion, which employs some 18,000 people.
  • Some 800,000 visitors to snow regions per year.

“We congratulate all the Olympians who have signed this letter, especially our Aussies whom we wish the best of luck competing in Sochi’s challenging conditions,” said John Connor, CEO of The Climate Institute.

“We have long voiced our concern about the growing impacts of climate change. Hearing the same message from our Winter Olympians, who are grappling with increasingly poor conditions, is important for making the public understand that climate change is here now and is already affecting the way we live. We need to act now to avoid the unmanageable impacts of climate change.”

The letter by the Olympians can be accessed in full through Protect Our Winters, an alliance of snow sport athletes who have spoken up about the impacts of climate change on snow conditions since 2007.

For more information    
Kristina Stefanova | Communications Director, The Climate Institute | 02 8239 6299

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