The 2022 Winter Olympics have officially begun! Unfortunately, we may have seen more fake snowflakes during the opening ceremony than we will real ones over the next two weeks in Beijing.
The images of brown mountains with small bands of snow are jarring for a competition celebrating snow sports. These Winter Olympics will be the first to use 100% artificial snow. However, artificial snow is not at all new to the Olympics. In 2014, Sochi used 80% artificial snow, and in 2018, PyeongChang used 90%.
While China and the IOC have touted these Games as being carbon-neutral, the process of snowmaking is incredibly energy-intensive. It is estimated that up to 500 million gallons of water will be required to create the snow throughout the Games. And the massive fleet of snowmaking equipment was all shipped overseas from Italy, then driven over 100 miles from Beijing to the mountains where competition will take place. Emissions were sky-high before a single machine had even been turned on.
Climate change is having an obvious and immediate impact on the Olympics and winters around the globe. A 2018 study (link in bio) found that if we continue at our current rate of carbon emissions, by 2080, only 8 of the 21 cities that have previously hosted the Winter Olympics would still be able to do so due to warming temperatures.
It will take action by all of us to combat climate change and save our snow!
Post credit to UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center