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Athletes Encourage Climate Change Discussion at 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics
By Kikkan Randall, U.S. Ski Team and Alex Deibold, U.S. Snowboard Team
Every four years, we all get to celebrate the best in winter sports, and this month in Sochi, the Olympics will host some of the most amazing winter athletes in the world on the biggest stage in sports. It’s going to be amazing.
But with that also comes the sobering opportunity to remember that if we don’t look beyond the next four years, the Games as we know it might be a thing of the past. In a recent study conducted by Dr. Daniel Scott, the data shows that with additional warming projected for later decades of this century, as few as six former host locations would remain climatically suitable.
It’s pretty clear that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is going to need to rethink the host cities of the future.
This past year, we’ve been training in places that have relied entirely on snowmaking, locations have changed and events cancelled. Winters are certainly changing, and despite the (thankfully) decent snow conditions in Sochi now, this long term trend just can’t be ignored.
Protect Our Winters (POW) is a global environmental nonprofit focused on uniting and mobilizing the 65 million member global snow sports community to fight climate change. As pro athletes who spend our lives outdoors, it is clear that climate change is very real and it’s already taking its toll on the social and economic infrastructure that depends on consistent winters and snowpack.
At Protect Our Winters’ core are the pro athletes and Olympians who are committed to taking action together. The POW Riders Alliance is made up of 53 of the top snow sports athletes, committed to fighting climate change. It’s a group of the most influential athletes in winter sports and if we’re going to create a social movement in winter sports against climate change, the responsibility falls on us—to speak out, to teach the youth who look up to us, to influence the media who listen to us and leverage our reach and connections to mobilize millions.
We’ve joined POW because we realize that we have a platform to speak out about the changes we’re seeing, to raise awareness and to influence change and that as one, we can truly make a difference.
Next year in Paris, world leaders will be gathering once again to try to iron out a plan to reduce global emissions and fight climate change. Despite failed attempts to find common ground and an agreement over the past few years at meetings in Copenhagen and Doha, we need to start the dialogue now. There is too much at stake to miss another opportunity.
So with more than 100 fellow 2014 Winter Olympians, we’ve signed a letter started by fellow U.S. Olympian Andrew Newell and POW asking world leaders to “recognize climate change by reducing emissions, embracing clean energy and preparing a commitment to a global agreement at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris 2015.”
This week, the eyes of the world will be on Sochi. Can we also use this gathering of the global community and this grand sporting stage to call attention to an issue that needs that kind of attention?
If not now, when?
If not us, who?
Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE page for more related news on this topic.
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President Donald Trump mocked water-efficiency standards in new constructions last week. Trump said, "People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once. They end up using more water. So, EPA is looking at that very strongly, at my suggestion." Trump asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a federal review of those standards since, he claimed with no evidence, that they are making bathrooms unusable and wasting water, as NBC News reported.
By Carey Gillam
Former Monsanto Chairman and CEO Hugh Grant will have to testify in person at a St. Louis-area trial set for January in litigation brought by a cancer-stricken woman who claims her disease was caused by exposure to the company's Roundup herbicide and that Monsanto covered up the risks instead of warning consumers.
A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.
"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."
The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.
My god, White Island volcano in New Zealand erupted today for first time since 2001. My family and I had gotten off it 20 minutes before, were waiting at our boat about to leave when we saw it. Boat ride home tending to people our boat rescued was indescribable. #whiteisland pic.twitter.com/QJwWi12Tvt— Michael Schade (@sch) December 9, 2019
Michael Schade / Twitter
At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.
The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.
Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.
"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."
Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.
Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.
"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.
"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."
The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.
Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.
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