SI.com – March 6, 2007
I first read this article in the print version of the magazine Sports Illustrated (one of the few paper versions of something that I will still read). This article takes the premise that global warming is already present, it is affecting the way that we currently play sports, and will dramatically affect the way we play sports in the future (near and far). There is very little scientific analysis in this article – it simply assumes that global warming is real. It also makes some fairly stark statements about how global warming is already affecting us (I am not sure that these statements are scientifically sound). When a publication like Sports Illustrated has a front page article about global warming, you know that this is a topic that will stick around for many more months (years?).
Global warming is not coming; it is here. Greenhouse gases — most notably carbon dioxide produced by burning coal, oil and gas — are trapping solar heat that once escaped from the Earth’s atmosphere. As temperatures around the globe increase, oceans are warming, fields are drying up, snow is melting, more rain is falling, and sea levels are rising.
Searing heat is turning that rite of passage of Texas high school football, the August two-a-day, into a one-at-night, while at the game’s highest level the Miami Dolphins, once famous for sweating players into shape, have thrown in the soggy towel and built a climate-controlled practice bubble.
If we continue to spew greenhouse gases as we are, the Earth could
become five degrees warmer this century. The last time Earth was that
warm, three million years ago, sea level stood 80 feet higher than it
does now. Scientists don’t foresee such a rise for centuries, but they
agree that a damaging change in sea level will occur by 2100.
Since the early 20th century, the amount of rain dropped in the biggest 1% of storms each year has risen 20%.
Indeed, the world’s signature dogsled race, Alaska’s Iditarod, hasn’t begun at its traditional starting point in Wasilla since 2002 because of too little snow there. The Elfstedentocht, an 11-city skating marathon that the Dutch stage whenever the canals freeze over, has been run only once in the past two decades. The highest ski slope on the planet, Bolivia’s Chacaltaya (altitude 17,388 feet), will soon be unskiable for lack of snow, and the Swiss are wrapping an age-old glacier in an insulating blanket as if it were a foundling.
Humans are accelerating global warming, and we can at least minimize its damage, if not reverse it. By acting quickly, the two countries that emit most of the world’s carbon dioxide, the U.S. and China, might be able to avert that forecasted five-degree temperature increase, slowing the rise of the seas enough to allow for the development of new technologies to redress the problem.
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