Canadas Olympians turn up the heat on Stephen Harper and climate change

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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CALGARY - Sara Renner is worried there won't be enough snow for her to ski a World Cup cross-country race in Rogla, Slovenia, next week.
The Olympic silver medallist from Canmore, Alta., says her sport is a canary in the coal mine for climate change.
Renner is one of 20 athletes, including Olympic gold medallists Hayley Wickenheiser, Jennifer Heil and Beckie Scott, who have signed a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper urging him to support a binding agreement at the ongoing UN climate summit in Copenhagen.
Renner's husband Thomas Grandi, a former Olympian and skier on the national alpine team, hand-delivered the letter to Harper's constituency office in southwest Calgary on Wednesday morning.
Meanwhile, Renner doesn't know where she'll travel next week to race.
"There's not enough snow and they're making the decision (Thursday) as to whether they'll be able to host the event or whether they'll have to change it," Renner explained Wednesday from Davos, Switzerland.
"This is an issue that is affecting freestyle skiing, who now have had a World Cup cancelled in France and used Finland as a replacement site. This is a reality for our sport.
"It might be minus-30 in Canmore or Calgary, but it's definitely not here."
Speedskater Kristina Groves, freestyle skier Kristi Richards and alpine skier Shona Rubens are also among the winter athletes who signed the letter.
The athletes asked Harper to help find a solution at the summit to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Not only are winter sports like skiing and snowboarding in peril, they say, but so are iconic Canadian activities such as ice fishing and pond hockey.
"I'm really disappointed we have such weak leadership on this issue," Renner said.
"We live in such an amazing country, with such amazing natural resources and at the same time we're completely failing in our responsibility to the world. It's disappointing we've lost this reputation that we had. We have to be accountable for that. We really do have to take a strong stand."
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister's office would not comment on the letter. She said Harper would attend the leaders' round at the end of the Copenhagen summit next week.
In the letter, the athletes maintain the international community must work to ensure that the global average temperature doesn't exceed two degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels, because scientists say that is the threshold for dangerous levels of climate change.
Standing outside Harper's office in falling snow and vapour emitting from his mouth, Grandi admitted it's difficult to convince Canadians the earth is warming when the thermometer drops below minus-10 C.
"As you can see by my breath it is quite chilly, but it is always a challenge talking to people about climate change, especially possibly in Alberta," he said. "But I think more and more people have to believe the science. The science is becoming more and more clear this is happening. It's something we have to deal with and we do have the solutions, which is great."
There's an outdoor rink in northwest Calgary named after Wickenheiser. The captain of the Canadian women's hockey team would like to see it last through the winter.
"There's no doubt our winters have changed since I was a kid growing up in Saskatchewan 20 years ago to now," Wickenheiser said. "Saving the outdoor the ice and the integrity of our sport of hockey I think is in the back of your mind with all of this.
"Moreso just the health of our kids and the future of our country and the world we live in, I think we're all seeing dramatic changes like the weather here in Calgary. It's definitely affecting people."
Vancouver Quadra MP Joyce Murray, who serves as the Liberals' spokesperson for the Olympics, issued a statement criticizing the Harper government for not supporting the athletes' cause.
"For years Harper has denied the effects of climate change on our environment and human health," Murray said in a statement. "Harper is busy playing follow-the-leader with the U.S., but he needs to lead on behalf of Canadians who want to see clear, binding targets and a real plan to address the climate crisis now."
Renner says Canada's environmental record will be under the microscope in February when it hosts the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C.
"The world will be looking at Canada in February," she said. "We have to decide what we stand for as a country. Do we care about the environment and are we willing to be an example or are we a country that in 50 years, we look back and historians say when the world was in trouble, Canada sat down and did not stand up?

Organizations: UN, Olympic Games

Geographic location: CALGARY, Canmore, Copenhagen Rogla Slovenia Davos Switzerland France Finland Canada Alberta U.S. Vancouver Whistler

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