Climate change is 'melting away both my sport and my livelihood,' winter athletes tell Senate committee
WASHINGTON, D.C. - As a hall-of-fame goaltender, Mike Richter is known for his game-winning saves on the ice. Now, he’s trying to save something else: the environment.
“Natural ice is a perfect metaphor for what’s going on,” said Richter, who spent 15 seasons in the National Hockey League with the New York Rangers, with whom he won a Stanley Cup in 1994. “Our disappearing winters serve a canary in the coalmine for the health of our planet and the ability to reach that potential.”
Richter now heads a company focusing on renewable energy. On Thursday, he took his message to Capitol Hill, testifying before the Senate Democrats Special Committee on the Climate Crisis… Richter headlined a group of winter sport athletes who say greenhouse gases and rising temperatures are negatively threatening their job. Joining him on the four-person panel was Jeremy Jones, professional snowboarder and founder of Protect Our Winters; professional climber Tommy Caldwell; and professional ski mountaineer and adventurer Caroline Gleich.
“I’ve been on expeditions in the tent with constant deafening sounds of icefall around me,” Gleich testified. “Increased temperatures are melting away both my sport and my livelihood.”
Their testimony is backed up by a recent report from Climate Central. The group estimates climate change could shorten winters by 34 days in places like Colorado, home of the nation’s top winter sports economy.
“As our winters shorten and snowfalls continue to decrease, the United States’ $20 billion snow-sports tourism industry faces an uncertain future,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), the committee’s chairman.
Climate change could eliminate 190,000 jobs and $7 billion in the winter sports and tourism industry, according to Schatz. The athletes are urging lawmakers to work with the private sector to make these changes.
“I think this is one of those existential issues that requires all hands on deck,” Richter said.
An issue Richter is hoping everyone will understand, much like a new play in a big hockey game.