Climate change is changing the future of the Olympics

The 2018 Winter Olympics faced unusually cold temperatures this season, making the artificial snow unfavorable for skiers and snowboarders and leaving athletes prone to severe injuries. Because of the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the cold temperatures in the Arctic region are traveling towards lower latitudes. As a result, in the same way countries come together to celebrate sports during the Olympic games, they also must use the Olympics as an opportunity to unite and work towards making worldwide policies to combat the growing issue of climate change.

A common misconception is that “global warming” and “climate change” are interchangeable phrases, but they are in reality two distinct issues. Global warming refers to the Earth’s rising surface temperature, while climate change addresses the side effects of this rise, which includes melting glaciers, heavier rainstorms, more frequent droughts, and lower temperatures, according to According to, warmer weather in the Arctic region disrupts the surrounding jet stream, which usually serves as a layer in the atmosphere that prevents cold air from leaving the region. The jet stream has been weakening more frequently and for longer periods of time over the past four decades. Therefore, the cold air escapes the jet stream and moves to lower latitudes in areas such as Europe, Russia, and the United States. 

Cross-country skiers raced on artificial snow during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Courtesy of The New York Times.

Sacred Heart Greenwich juniors Mary Anne Gallagher, Sara Micciulli, and Sophie Skinner are heads of the Environmental Action Club, which Upper School Science Teacher Ms. Mary Musolino moderates. Sophie offered her own tips to help members of the Sacred Heart community become more eco-friendly and environmentally aware.

“My group and I have been working extremely hard to decrease our carbon footprints and inform those around us what the damages may be,” Sophie said. “Some of the most helpful and impactful changes you can make to your daily life include unplugging computers and phones when not in use, changing your light bulbs to compact fluorescent or light emitting diode (LED), washing your clothes in cold water rather than warm, and composting in your kitchen.”

According to, the most important solution to reducing the impact of fossil fuels on the environment is to educate people around the globe about how to manage and reduce emissions and increase energy efficiency. Individuals can conserve energy by turning off electrical equipment when not in use, buying equipment that uses less energy, limiting the use of air conditioning, and relying on public transportation. To reduce air pollution from cars, people can use public transportation, walk, or bike instead of driving to their destination.

Citizens’ Climate Lobby is an international environmental group that trains and supports volunteers to build relationships with their elected representatives so that they can influence climate change policy, according to The lobby’s goal is to use a carbon fee and dividend solution, which puts a fee on carbon and fossil fuels and returns the revenue to households. If the International Olympic Committee (IOC) supported and endorsed the carbon fee and dividend solution, competing nations like the United States, Norway, Australia, and many others could implement global changes that help reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. 

Ms. Diggins won the first-ever cross-country skiing gold medal for the United States in 2018. Courtesy of The New York Times.

American cross-country skier Ms. Jessie Diggins uses her Olympic platform to advocate for climate control in the hopes of preserving the surface she uses in competition as well as the future of the sport. Ms. Diggins said that most events over the last three years have been on man-made snow, which increases the sleekness of the snow, according to The New York TimesBecause of this, ski accidents are more frequent and much more dangerous. Ms. Diggins supports the carbon fee and dividend solution, hoping to influence other athletes, the IOC, and viewers at home to fight for the fate of winter sports.

“You can look at different solutions for the economy, but you only get one earth to live on, and you have to breathe the air that is on this earth,” Ms. Diggins said in an interview with The New York Times. “We have to do it in a way that doesn’t hurt families economically, which is why I’m supporting the carbon fee and dividend solution.”

The Olympics are symbolic for unifying the world’s nations through athletics, but if the event does not address the growing problem of climate change, the future of the Olympics may come to an end. With 92 of 195 nations in the world participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics, there is no better time to discuss a uniform solution to reduce the impact of global warming. Additionally, the Olympics are a universal event and therefore have an extensive viewership audience, which is a perfect way to spread awareness and impel action. If the IOC does not take advantage of its opportunity to address this issue, it will jeopardize the future of winter sports.