THE winter Olympics, which is not as popular as the summer games, is also held every four years. For obvious reasons, only a few countries participate in these games. For the 2022 Winter games in Beijing this February, the Philippines is sending one Fil-Am athlete, Asa Miller, who is based in Portland, Oregon. He also represented the Philippines in the 2018 games together with Michael Christian Martinez.

The games are cold-weather-dependent. Because of global warming, there may not be winter games in the future. A study entitled “Climate change and the future of the Olympic Winter Games: athlete and coach perspectives,” which was recently published in the journal “Current Issues in Tourism” says that Climate change will limit where the Winter Olympics can be held.

The study, involving researchers from Canada, Austria and the United States, found that if global emissions of greenhouse gases are not dramatically reduced, only one of the 21 cities that have previously hosted the Winter Olympics would be able to reliably provide fair and safe conditions for the snow sports program of the Games by the end of this century. However, if the Paris Climate Agreement emission targets can be achieved, the number of climate-reliable host cities jumps to eight, with only six considered unreliable.

The study also mentioned that the average February daytime temperature of host cities has steadily increased – from 0.4°C at the Games held in the 1920s to the 1950s, to 3.1°C at Games during the 1960s to 1990s, and 6.3°C in Games held in the twenty-first century (including the Beijing Games).

Now why should it be a concern to us Filipinos when a Winter Olympic medal seems to be out of reach for now? Well, it’s not the games per se that we should be worried about but rather the warming climate that is causing less snow and ice melts. It will not only affect the winter games but all of humanity.

Melting glaciers and ice caps will cause sea levels to rise. That’s in addition to the expansion of the ocean due to heat. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the US, if all glaciers and ice sheets melted, global sea level would rise by more than 195 feet (60 meters). Another U.S. agency, the NOAA, said that global mean sea level has risen about 8–9 inches (21–24 centimeters) since 1880.

The Philippines will certainly be affected by rising sea level. Many of our big cities, like capital Manila, are near shorelines. Pampanga will be affected too. How? Through the Pampanga River which drains into Manila Bay. If water in Manila Bay rises, it will cause the Pampanga River to flow back and flood low lying areas. A check on Google Earth reveals that residential areas in Macabebe and Sasmuan near Pampanga River are only 1 to 3 meters above sea level. That’s scary!