In the waning days of summer, winter sports athletes took to Capitol Hill to share the consequences of a warming climate on their careers and lives.
“I hear it echoed so many times that this is a political issue,” New York Rangers goaltender Mike Richter said about climate change during the Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis hearing in mid-September. “By definition, it is actually not a political issue, and it’s old, young, male, female, whatever. Everybody’s affected by this. It’s an equal opportunity tragedy.”
Richter, a three-time NHL All-Star and president of lighting company BrightCore Energy, was joined by snowboarder Jeremy Jones, ski mountaineer Caroline Gleichand professional climber Tommy Caldwell.
The hearing, dubbed “The Fight to Save Winter: Pro Athletes for Climate Action,” allowed winter sports athletes to share with senators “the changing conditions they see on the mountains, the shrinking winters and warming temperatures that threaten the sports and activities that rely on snow, ice and cold weather,” according to The Washington Post.
Jones, founder of the advocacy group Protect Our Winters, referenced studies that predict the length of winter recreation seasons will shrink in some areas of the country by 50 percent by 2050 and by 80 percent by 2090. “Which means winter as we know it would be three weeks long,” Jones told the lawmakers. “That is heartbreaking. I’m also a father, [and] to think my kids’ kids could be the last generation of skiers is a big deal.”
“There is no doubt increased temperatures are melting away both my sport and my livelihood,” Gleich added.
“All of your assumptions about how you spend your time in the winter and summers, what you’re able to do with your family when you have free time and a little bit of money are going to change if we don’t take action,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), chair of the committee who convened the group to explore climate change through the lens of sports, told The Washington Post.“[The winter sports athletes] were powerful advocates for doing something about climate, especially because they don’t have a political agenda. They’re just on the front lines, seeing what’s happening in the real world.”