Climate change may be impacting the future of the Winter Olympics


Hunter Berube

Suffolk Climate Watch graphic

As the 2022 Winter Olympics approach, athletes and researchers are beginning to worry if climate change could hinder the future of the games, including this year’s events.

Beijing is set to host the Games, which begin Feb. 4. However, with the climate crisis causing inconsistent weather patterns, athletes are worried about a lack of snow that could prevent them from performing in their events. 

“Man-made warming does have effects on the Winter Olympics,” said Diana Gastelum, president of the Suffolk Environmental Club. 

A recent report claims that climate change will create dangerous conditions for the future of winter sports and those that participate in them. 

According to CNN, the 2022 Olympics will be utilizing “virtually 100% artificial snow,” with the help of more than 100 snow generators and another 300 snow-making guns. These machines will aid in covering the ski slopes for the competitions.

“I would even say that it is a classic case of a positive feedback loop, meaning that warming temperatures cause a general decrease in natural snow and therefore more of a need for artificial snow, which produces high levels of emissions in production causing climate change to become worse,” said Gastelum. 

With warmer temperatures taking place during the wintertime, previous cities that have hosted the Olympics will likely be unable to do so again by 2100. According to The Weather Network, there are an expected 13 cities that will host by 2050 if the Paris Agreement reaches its goals. If not, researchers believe this number will fall to 10.

Not only can a warming climate reduce snow, but it can also cause effects such as avalanches, according to NBC Sports. Due to weather inconsistencies, mountain snowpack structures can differ. If there is less compact snow on the lower part of a mountain, any snow that falls on top may not be properly secured, causing an avalanche. 

“Navigating erratic snow seasons and rapid melt of low-level resorts are now the norm for many competitors,” said David Scott in his report, “Climate change and the future of the Olympic Winter Games: athlete and coach perspectives.

In order to combat this issue, the International Olympic Committee is committed to reducing greenhouse gasses and other effects of climate change that may affect their Games, according to the report.