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Canadian skiers take on global warming

Sara Renner, Thomas Grandi launch ‘Play it Cool’ carbon-neutral program

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By Andrew Mitchell

Olympians Sara Renner and Thomas Grandi could not have picked a better time to announce their carbon neutral program for Canadian athletes.

Dozens of competitions in Europe have been cancelled due to the warm weather and lack of snow this winter, just as experts from European climactic institutes announced that the Alps are at their warmest in 1,300 years.

The Olympic power couple of Renner and Grandi, members of the national cross-country and alpine teams respectively, announced a new program for athletes to offset their carbon output, in conjunction with the David Suzuki Foundation. Under the ‘Play It Cool’ program, athletes purchase carbon credits to offset the carbon dioxide they produce flying and driving on the World Cup circuits. Grandi has also committed half of his 2006-07 World Cup earnings to the David Suzuki Foundation.

To demonstrate how the program works, the pair held a press conference in Calgary last Friday. The David Suzuki Foundation calculated how much carbon Grandi produces traveling on the World Cup circuit, and Grandi responded with a cheque for $535 in carbon credits. Carbon credits can be used to plant trees, replace old carbon-producing technologies with new technologies in the Third World, and to purchase carbon credits from countries that have a negative carbon contribution for their own development.

“Global warming threatens the winter sports we love and that help define us of a nation,” said Grandi. “If we continue business as usual, we’re going to lose that cultural identity and all the recreational opportunities that go with it.”

Renner agreed. “As winter athletes we have much to lose from global warming, but so do all Canadians, especially our children.”

Grandi and Renner have challenged other Canadian athletes to sign on with the program, and at the launch had a list of 21 other Canadians participating.

A United Nations report on global warming and alpine skiing determined that snow would disappear from most alpine resorts by 2030, with only higher elevation resorts continuing to get regular snow. Numerous other reports chronicle everything from shrinking glaciers to lower snowpacks to shorter and warmer winters.

Dr. Suzuki was on hand at the announcement, and credited the two athletes for taking action.

“Winter sports are a big part of our country and our culture,” he said. “We hope Sara and Thomas’s example can lead other athletes to help protect their winter sports.”

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