Outdoor Sports Community Calls for Climate Action

by Julia Pyper, Contributing Editor at Greentech Media and host and producer of the Political Climate podcast

The impacts of climate change are evident to winter athletes and outdoor enthusiasts. Rather than sit on the sidelines this summer amid the ongoing pandemic, snow sports competitors and the companies that support them are using their platforms to call for more robust climate action. 

This month, the advocacy organization Protect Our Winters (POW) organized a group of high-profile snowboarders, skiers, climbers and affiliated brands to lobby Members of Congress (via ZOOM) for more robust climate and clean energy policies. Their list of asks includes delaying the phase-down of renewable energy tax credits (S.2289), boosting government investments in electric vehicles (S.1094) and protecting public lands (H.R.5435).


Why This Matters: Protecting natural playgrounds has both environmental and economic benefits. According to a 2018 study conducted by POW and outdoor retailer REI, found that low snow winters cost the U.S. economy more than 17,000 jobs and over $1 billion in lost revenue compared to an average season. Those numbers are expected to worsen if the climate continues to warm. 

Climate change also negatively impacts the companies linked to outdoor sports. For instance, more frequent heatwaves and droughts affect barley yield and make beer production more challenging. If left unchecked, climate change could ultimately double the price of beer for consumers and crush small brewing companies.

All of the athletes [involved with POW] are so incredibly passionate about this and incredibly well versed in the climate issues we’re facing, and the bills and things we’re really advocating for,” Steve Fechheimer, the CEO of New Belgium Brewing and POW partner, said on the Political Climate podcast. “Then when you bring in someone like New Belgium, you also get a business aspect and how business is being impacted by climate change.” 

Fresh Perspective: In a world where action on climate typically falls along partisan lines, unique perspectives from athletes and business leaders can resonate with lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle. 

You just have to find some common ground with them,” professional snowboarder and two-time X-Games gold medalist Danny Davis said of Republicans. “They’re not looking to make a sweet pow turn and we’re not going to talk about climbing Denali or X-Games or get really deep on stuff like that. But we can all connect on [the fact] our planet is just so sacred and it’s something that we’ve really got to protect.”

There Is No ‘I’ in ‘Team’: The outdoor sports industry cuts across industries, geographies and political affiliations. According to POW, more than 50 million Americans identify as passionate outdoor users. Uniting this community in support of protecting the planet could help move the needle on policy. Earlier this year, New Belgium Brewing partnered with POW to support The Outdoor State, a campaign to mobilize outdoor enthusiasts to vote in the 2020 election.

To Go Deeper: Listen to the full interview with Danny Davis and Steve Fechheimer on Political Climate.


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