Climate change jeopardizing the Winter Games

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Prof. Daniel Scott, Prof. Peter Johnson, and PhD student Michelle Rutty teamed up with Dr. Robert Steiger, of the Austrian Management Centre in Innsbruck in a study called “The Future of The Winter Olympics in a Warmer World.”

The study found that only 11 of the previous 19 cities to host the winter games, including Vancouver, would be capable of hosting the games in the coming decades. 

The Austrian Management Centre in Innsbruck approached  Scott, a Canada research chair in global tourism and lead author of the study, to find and point out the challenges that lie ahead for the Olympics thanks to climate change. Scott was contacted by Steiger, whom he worked with in the past. 

“Years ago, I gave him a model I developed and he then built on it further and applied it to Austria and more broadly across the Alps.  It was a model we’ve used here in North America and applied specifically to the ski industry. That’s where this sort of partnership started.” 

Past experiences with Steiger as well as Scott’s experience in the field of climate change modelling made this partnership ideal. Scott further highlighted why the partnership was so natural:

“This study is really an extension of the work I’ve done on how weather and climate change affects sports, recreation, and global tourism as a whole.”

When asked about the study’s agenda in terms of the larger climate change battle, Scott said, “It’s less about raising awareness among governments … It’s more about public engagement as opposed to decision makers in the Canadian government.” 

Secondly, the report aims to help the International Olympic Committee in their planning and decision-making process by creating awareness of the cities that have a limited window of opportunity to host the games. 

Scott emphasizes the importance of public engagement in the overall climate change battle because ultimately it is citizens who most influence governments. 

 “Climate change is very pluralistic. It means different things to different people. You need to draw on what will engage people in this conversation. You have to find ways to bring it closer to home.” 

He hopes that a study like this will resonate with Canadians, because winter sports are such an important part of our culture and identity. 

Finally, Scott hopes that public awareness and action will influence the Canadian government from acting like a “roadblock” in international meetings regarding climate change. Scott said in many instances, “Other nations there just prefer us to stay home.” He said he would like “the obstruction to stop” and to see Canada’s government restore its environmental reputation abroad.

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