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Beijing Winter Olympics a Cautionary Climate Tale, Expert Says | College of Natural Resources News – NC State College of Natural Resources News

Several miles outside the Chinese city of Zhangjiakou, a series of narrow white strips streak across the landscape of barren brown mountains. 

Zhangjiakoua’s mountain region, located about 110 miles northwest of Beijing, is hosting one of three outdoor venues for this year’s Winter Olympics. 

However, because the region doesn’t receive much precipitation during the winter months, Chinese officials have blanketed numerous slopes with artificial snow. 

Did you know? The first Winter Olympics was held in Chamonix, France in 1924.

This year’s Olympics is the first of its kind to rely completely on artificial snow, which according to one NC State expert, signals that the ideal conditions for winter sports are becoming increasingly scarce as climate change progresses.

Earth’s average global temperature has increased by a little more than 2 degrees since 1880, with the last eight years marking the eight hottest on record, according to calculations by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

“The warmer temperatures are causing shorter winters and reducing the amount of time snow is on the ground, so it’s definitely possible that participation might decline in some winter sports,” said Jonathan Casper, an associate professor of parks, recreation and tourism management. 

An Industry in Danger

Winter sports generate $887 billion in economic revenue and support 7.6 million jobs in the United States, according to Protect Our Winters, an advocacy group. They also provide millions of people with the mental and physical health benefits of outdoor recreation.

Many winter sports, including snowboarding and skiing, require an ample amount of snow on the ground. However, as temperatures continue to rise, natural snow is becoming less reliable. 

Casper, whose research focuses on sport and the natural environment, said the warmer temperatures are already limiting the places where athletes can train and compete.

More than 25 million Americans participated in winter sports in the 2019-2020 winter season, according to Snowsports Industries America. Photo by Patrick T’Kindt via Unsplash.

A recent study published in the journal Current Issues in Tourism, for example, projects that only one of the past 21 Winter Olympic cities will reliably provide safe and fair conditions for athletes by the end of the century if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase. 

As a result, winter sports could become more expensive and exclusive, with both elite and recreational athletes forced into spending more money and time to find reliable locations. 

The warmer temperatures could also impact the next generation of athletes as they might not have enough snow to develop their skills, according to Casper.

“If the sport isn’t as available as it once was, there’s a good chance the number and quality of athletes is going to decline,” Casper said.

The Impacts of Using Artificial Snow

Amid declining conditions, many businesses and other stakeholders in the winter sports industry are taking drastic measures to ensure training and competitions can take place. 

Since it was introduced at the 1980 Winter Olympics in New York, artificial snow has been increasingly used by the industry to compensate for the lack of natural snow. However, it’s often criticized as not only being unsafe for athletes but also harmful to the environment. 

Casper said the snowmaking process is especially water- and energy-intensive. In China, for example, officials estimate that …….

Source: https://cnr.ncsu.edu/news/2022/02/beijing-winter-olympics-a-cautionary-climate-tale-expert-says/

Several miles outside the Chinese city of Zhangjiakou, a series of narrow white strips streak across the landscape of barren brown mountains. 

Zhangjiakoua’s mountain region, located about 110 miles northwest of Beijing, is hosting one of three outdoor venues for this year’s Winter Olympics. 

However, because the region doesn’t receive much precipitation during the winter months, Chinese officials have blanketed numerous slopes with artificial snow. 

Did you know? The first Winter Olympics was held in Chamonix, France in 1924.

This year’s Olympics is the first of its kind to rely comple…….

Several miles outside the Chinese city of Zhangjiakou, a series of narrow white strips streak across the landscape of barren brown mountains. 

Zhangjiakoua’s mountain region, located about 110 miles northwest of Beijing, is hosting one of three outdoor venues for this year’s Winter Olympics. 

However, because the region doesn’t receive much precipitation during the winter months, Chinese officials have blanketed numerous slopes with artificial snow. 

Did you know? The first Winter Olympics was held in Chamonix, France in 1924.

This year’s Olympics is the first of its kind to rely comple…….

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