Forget the political climate at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, which begin on Friday in South Korea. What about the physical climate? Global warming does not bode well for future Olympic Games.
While news headlines are focusing on the frigid weather in Pyeongchang—a high of only 11 degrees Fahrenheit yesterday—the long-term forecasts for the Olympics tell a very different story. According to a study published a few weeks ago by researchers from Canada, Austria, and China, rising temperatures will make most of the venues of the past three decades too warm to host the Winter Olympics by the 2080s. Even with artificial snowmaking, some former venues will not be able to guarantee sufficient snow on the slopes.
Pyeongchang and Beijing, which will host the 2022 Winter Games, are among the few cities expected to remain cold enough even if global greenhouse gas emissions are not dramatically reduced. But even with suitable hosts, winter sports are expected to face declining conditions and reduced training opportunities.
And it’s not just the Winter Games that are threatened. An article published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet in 2016 concluded that much of the Northern Hemisphere could be too hot by 2085 to host the Summer Olympics, if global emissions continue unabated. San Francisco was the only large city in the United States deemed to be a reliably suitable host by then.
A report just released by the Climate Coalition, a group of 130 non-governmental organizations in Britain, warns that climate change is already causing serious problems for British soccer, golf, and cricket—by increasing precipitation and coastal erosion. The report predicts canceled matches, flooded fields, and “golf courses crumbling into the sea,” and says that the Scottish skiing industry could collapse within 50 years.