Vermont Winter Olympians call for action on climate change

Olympic cross-country ski racers, left to right, Ida Sargent, Hannah Dreissigacker, Liz Stephen and Susan Dunklee came to the Morse Farm Ski Center in East Montpelier to call for action on climate change. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

Olympic cross-country ski racers, left to right, Ida Sargent, Hannah Dreissigacker, Liz Stephen and Susan Dunklee came to the Morse Farm Ski Center in East Montpelier to call for action on climate change. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

When Vermont’s Olympic cross-country ski racers started skiing as children, they could set out from their doorsteps on a solid surface of snow. Now, they say the snow is disappearing, and their professional careers are threatened by climate change.

After returning from the ski season in Europe, 2014 Olympic Winter Games biathlete Hannah Dreissigacker and other Vermont Olympians came to Morse Farm Ski Center in East Montpelier to call for action on climate change.

“We need to put a price on carbon emissions,” Dreissgacker said.

The 27-year-old Morrisville native, who often flies around the world to race and visit friends and family, said even her own carbon-intensive lifestyle is disguised by the low cost of fossil fuels, which doesn’t reflect the larger cost to the environment, she said.

“When we burn fuel, we’re paying for the fuel and we’re not paying for all the damage that that fuel does,” she said. “The idea of putting a price on carbon is that suddenly we’re paying for what that fuel should actually cost.”

Lawmakers this year did not propose a carbon tax. Rep. Tony Klein, D-East Montpelier, who chairs the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee, has said Vermont has one chance to get the policy right.

A carbon tax is among the policy options the Department of Public Service highlighted in its most recent draft Total Energy Study (TES), a document designed to guide the state closer to its comprehensive goal of meeting 90 percent of Vermont’s overall energy needs from renewable sources by 2050.

Dreissigacker and other Vermont cross-country ski racers were alarmed by the worsening snow conditions at many of Europe’s most popular World Cup venues this year.

Nordic skier Liz Stephen, 27, is a two-time Olympian from East Montpelier. She said the majority of her races this year were on narrow man-made tracks of slushy snow colored brown with rocks and dirt.

“It really seems this year, especially, that the venues we went to had much less snow than usual, even the ones we could count on in the past to have good snow,” she said.

That’s why during her off-season break this month she came home to ask Vermont to take the lead on climate change policy.

Ida Sargent, 26, got her start in Nordic ski racing in Barton. She too called for action.

“I could just go outside and ski from my door,” Sargent said. “And that sport is changing now. And it’s very visible both here in Vermont and in Europe.”

The warm winter season last year forced her and her teammates to race laps on short man-made snow tracks one mile in length. This is very different from the skiing she experienced growing up.

“It’s not going to continue our sport as the way we’ve known it and in the tradition that has grown in Vermont,” she said, “because it limits the accessibility of the sport because only certain places can manufacture and build snow like that.”

She said Vermont should model Europe’s action on carbon emissions: smaller cars, public transportation, and rooftop solar, for example.

This includes supporting Vermont’s current move toward industrial renewable power, such as the Kingdom Community Wind Project in Lowell, a project that has stirred an emotional debate on the state’s energy future.

“I think that this is a huge step forward for Vermont,” she said. “And I’m actually proud to live so close to both of those, and I hope that other areas in Vermont and New England will also continue this movement.”

Biathlete Susan Dunklee, 28, earned the nation’s top Olympic sprint finish for women this year. She grew up near Crystal Lake in Barton, which she described as “wild and rugged.”

But now she is worried the Montreal-Portland Pipeline, which brings crude oil from South Portland, Maine, to Montreal, could be reversed to bring heavy Canadian crude oil. Canadian tar sands oil is more energy-intensive to extract and is difficult to clean up because it contains bitumen, which sinks to the bottom of waterways.

“So I’m a little bit worried about that. But that aside – even if we were not to have a leak, the old pipeline worked out fine – the fact is, we’re enabling a system that’s depending on fossil fuels,” she said. “We need to be finding more creative solutions.”

On Town Meeting Day this year, 13 towns opposed reversing the flow of the pipeline. On Monday, a representative for the company said it does not plan to reverse the flow of the pipeline.

The Vermont Natural Resources Council and National Wildlife Federation hosted the news conference.

Johanna Miller, energy program director for the VNRC, said the testimony is affirmation that climate change is happening rapidly around the world.

“There hasn’t been … enough talk about the urgency of climate change,” she said. “And we have some young ladies who have dedicated their lives to building a professional career in an industry that could be dying.”

John Herrick

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22 Comments on "Vermont Winter Olympians call for action on climate change"

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2 years 3 months ago
Yes, climate change, money can fix it and climate change is all about that, money. What this article proposes is charging everyone higher fuel cost, but how will that do one single thing, other than reduce our ability to afford travel, to help with reducing carbon, which by and large has not been soundly proven. Our climate has changed numerous times throughout the ages. If the “Officials” in Montpelier think they can save the earth by raising the price of fuel thru taxation, there is no threat what so ever from climate change, just charge more $$$ and the problem… Read more »
Keith Stern
2 years 3 months ago

Why not request Obama ask God personally to straighten out climate change? All the liberals believe he is the second coming after all.

Annette Smith
2 years 3 months ago
So these athletes who fly all over the world burning up carbon feel guilty so they feel good destroying an intact ecosystem for wind turbines to assuage their guilt? Where is their evidence that the Lowell wind turbines are addressing climate change? For those of us interested in effective climate change action, the evidence shows that New England’s wind turbines may be increasing GHG emissions because of inefficient back-up generators that are required to ramp in response to intermittent wind. Without efficient ramping generators or storage, there is no evidence of meaningful fuel savings or GHG emission reduction. There is… Read more »
Richard Ratico
2 years 3 months ago

Annette,

Thanks for that. You’ve finally described the NIMBY mindset. “Extraordinary Popular Delusion”. Perfect.

George Plumb
2 years 3 months ago
I commend these Vermont Olympians for speaking out on climate change. I also don’t understand how after looking at all the science there are people out there who deny that it is human caused. Do they really think that the scientists who started predicting global warming decades ago just knew that the climate was changing anyway and wanted to promote their false beliefs of it being human caused for some reason? However, I do find it ironic that these Olympians fly in jet planes all over the world many times a year so they can make money off of a… Read more »
andew nemethy
2 years 3 months ago
Hey George, trust me, these Olympians don’t ski and train and sacrifice for the money. There is no money in their sports, as their need to fundraise in order just to scrape by is ample evidence. The jetting they do is certainly an issue, though singling them out for this is a bit unfair considering they are a miniscule drop in the bucket compared to say, business travel. What they offer is empirical evidence that others like myself have also seen in my travels, that winter as we know it is an endangered species, with serious implications for water supply,… Read more »
John Greenberg
2 years 3 months ago

Annette Smith writes: “… the evidence shows that New England’s wind turbines may be increasing GHG emissions because of inefficient back-up generators that are required to ramp in response to intermittent wind.” Please present the evidence to which you’re referencing.

Peter Liston
2 years 3 months ago

These women really do Vermont proud. They’re remarkable athletes and thoughtful, committed citizens. It’s great to see!

2 years 3 months ago

I guess Al Gore’s failed predictions about the ice caps being gone by 2013 are not enough to cause concern for some people. All I can see happening world wide is, carbon tax, carbon tax, carbon tax. This really is all about the money.

Richard Ratico
2 years 3 months ago

Ray,

“This really is all about the money.” That’s certainly the way the Koch brothers and fossil fuel industries see it.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/27/us/how-a-gulf-settlement-that-bp-once-hailed-became-its-target.html

2 years 3 months ago

Read this article! The Polar Bears really are in trouble, not from climate change but rather from to much ice:

http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/barbara-hollingsworth/alaskan-polar-bears-threatened-too-much-spring-ice-0

Matthew Rutherford
2 years 3 months ago
Ray, That article references only one small region of the Arctic. You can see the biologist’s blog post about the article at the link below. There is a picture which indicates the region she is speaking of, which makes up a clearly small percentage of the Arctic. http://polarbearscience.com/2014/04/25/my-interview-with-cns-news-alaskan-polar-bears-threatenedby-too-much-spring-ice/ And the ice caps are still melting. The ice coverage and thickness are both decreasing. Coverage during the summer of 2012 was the lowest on record. 2013 was the 6th lowest on record. And the ice is on average 50% thinner than in previous decades. “This year’s sea ice extent is substantially… Read more »
John Greenberg
2 years 3 months ago

Thank you!

Matthew Rutherford
2 years 3 months ago

Just trying to stem the tide of misinformation. You deserve much more gratitude than I.

Peter Liston
2 years 3 months ago

CNS news is crazier than Fox News.

Created for and by the extreme Right Wing.

Don Peterson
2 years 3 months ago

Olympians help unite the people of the world, and for that I’d burn a little jet fuel.

Maybe our Vermont Olympians would like to petition their fellow athletes to publicly speak out about climate change, and offer solutions. That is how much needed consensus is built.

Vanessa Mills
2 years 3 months ago
Certain fluff, global-scale jet-setting, hobbies, certain lifestyles, jobs, entities, perhaps even whole industries will cease to (and dare I say, need to cease to) exist (!?!?). What about the carbon emssions and resource waste of pro level sports and its related travel and promotion and perpetuation; what about NASCAR; and more things like tractor pulls and dirt bike races? What about lawns too big to enjoy but slave over. We all got something that will have to go. But anyone can justify and/or banter all day about freedom of choices and hobbies/interests; and about which ones are priority for human… Read more »
Matt Fisken
2 years 3 months ago

Vanessa, thanks for speaking the humorous truth.

George Plumb
2 years 3 months ago
We should thank VNRC and particularly Joey Miller for organizing this event. It is too bad that more of the media didn’t cover it. Was it on any television broadcast? Fortunately we do have vtdigger but that reaches only a limited audience. And yes thanks Vanessa for mentioning all of those other unnecessary and harmful reasons for burning fossil fuels. The list could be much larger but at least you brought up some of them. One of the important factors that is almost always left out of the discussion is population growth. With the U.S. growing by at least two… Read more »
Matt Fisken
2 years 3 months ago

Population reduction and serious lifestyle sacrifices will always be taboo topics for most people. That doesn’t mean continued population growth isn’t a problem, but it has become one of those shrug-your-shoulders, “well, what can we do?” issues.

Obviously, it is more appealing to wishfully build industrial wind turbines and cover fields with solar panels than it is to voluntarily lower our standards of living or cull the herd.

Carl Werth
2 years 3 months ago

“it is more appealing to wishfully build industrial wind turbines and cover fields with solar panels than it is to voluntarily lower our standards of living”

It’s because we care. We CARE! OH, can you not see how much WE care? We will destroy to create – THAT is how much we care! Is that not enough?

Paul Lorenzini
2 years 3 months ago
If public school, or any school is committed to educating children, then they should not tell only Al Gores side of the story, of which he is a direct profiteer. It appears to be a brainwashing agenda, and I feel bad for all these young adults that have been subjected to public school brainwashing. They should show this side of the story also. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtevF4B4RtQ Facts, not drama and the indoctrination by fear mongers to further their agenda of self profit and control of the populace. Look for the truth kiddos, don’t be blind followers of a theory that no one… Read more »
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