The combination of too much pollution, and not enough water and snow, is raising alarms ahead of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing. With less than two weeks before the opening ceremonies, heavy smog is driving air quality to “very unhealthy” levels, endangering the athletes – not to mention the residents of Bejing. Notably, local officials have authority to “adopt control measures” against polluting businesses and vehicles to help improve air quality. A Greenpeace report recently found China must dramatically accelerate its EV adoption to prevent even greater proliferation of life-threatening air pollution.
Steel plants about 100 miles from Beijing have already been shuttered and authorities are considering cloud seeding efforts to induce rain to flush the pollution out of the air. In the long term, climate change challenges the long-term viability of the Winter Olympics themselves. The Beijing Games will be the first to rely completely on artificial snow, and snowmaking efforts — part of a broader push to transform the region into a Chinese version of the Alps — which is straining local water supplies.
New research published by researchers at the University of Waterloo found only one of the 21 cities that has hosted the Winter Olympics over the last century can be reliably expected to host the Games in 2080. (Air pollution: Reuters, Washington Post $, Bloomberg $, Earther; Snow and water supplies: Bloomberg $, Washington Post $; Chinese EVs: Bloomberg $; Long-term viability: NPR, InsideClimate News; Climate Signals background: Snowpack decline)