WASHINGTON - Global warming watch out: Ice hockey fans are out to get you.
Enthusiasts of the blend of ballet and battle geared up Thursday for protest matches on two continents, in the desert, and in the Arctic to call attention to the threat to winter sports posed by climate change.
The face off, timed to coincide with Thursday's anniversary of a landmark UN treaty to slow global warming, also would serve to highlight discontent with governments' implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, environmental activists said.
''Climate change is the biggest threat to hockey since the NHL labor talks,'' said Mike Hudema, an activist with the group Global Exchange. He referred to contract disputes between players and team owners in the National Hockey League.
''Throughout North America and Europe, we're seeing kids have less ice time and fewer cold days. It's time our governments drop the gloves on climate change before global warming ruins our national sports,'' Hudema said.
Thursday's games, timed to coincide with the first anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol's entry into force, were to be held in the Canadian cities of Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, White Horse, Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Yellowknife, and Fort Smith and the U.S. cities of Tucson and Columbus, said organizers from several youth and environmental groups.
Games also were expected in Boston, and in Sweden, Austria, and Italy, according to the ''Save Hockey, Stop Climate Change'' campaign organized by the Arctic Council Youth Network, Ecology North, Energy Action, Forest Ethics, Fort Smith Environmental Society, Global Exchange, Northern Climate Change, Sierra Youth Coalition, Toronto Environmental Alliance, and Youth Environment Network.
Penned in 1997, the Kyoto Protocol calls on the industrial world as a whole to slash its greenhouse gas emissions--which scientists blamed for global warming--by 5.2 percent from 1990 levels by 2012, with targets set according to each country's pollution level.
The pact took effect one year ago on Thursday, after a decade's activism and diplomacy, first to get the document written and then to get enough countries to sign on so it could enter into force. By Feb. 16, 2005, a total of 140 countries and the European Union had signed.
At the time, analysts and activists alike observed that governments were committing themselves to make reductions that would fall far short of what most scientists agreed was needed to tackle global warming.
Even so, ''countries are not on track to meet even their modest Kyoto targets, despite growing recognition that we are already facing dramatic consequences as a result of climate change,'' said climate campaigner Catherine Pearce of Friends of the Earth International.
Indeed, emissions have increased in Italy, Canada, and Austria and have begun to rise in Britain, Friends of the Earth International said.
The environmental group urged governments to step up energy efficiency and investments in power harvested from the sun, wind, tides, and heat stored under Earth's surface. Environmentalists prize such renewable energy because it is relatively clean and, unlike fossil fuels, is comes from sources that are continually replaced.
Friends of the Earth also has urged major polluters not party to the treaty--chiefly, the United States and Australia--to sign on, arguing that industrialized countries have benefited the most from burning fossil fuels so they should do the most to reduce their dependence on climate-altering sources of power.
The United States signed the treaty during the tenure of President Bill Clinton but Congress balked at ratifying the move. President George W. Bush in 2001 rejected the pact, saying it would cost the U.S. economy and did nothing to rein in rapidly industrializing China and India.
Talks slated for later this year are to consider further emission reductions for the industrialized world and potential action to limit emissions from the ascendant Asian economies.
Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are spewed into the atmosphere when oil, gas, and coal are burned. Scientists have blamed the resulting climate change, more commonly referred to as global warming, for consequences including melting polar ice caps and rising sea levels that threaten small island countries, the spread of deserts in some regions, and the proliferation of tropical diseases in temperate zones.
For the Save Hockey coalition, the consequences are too close to home ice.
The coalition formed last December at UN climate talks in Montreal, where young people set up a 20-foot rink, flooded it, and played a very messy game of hockey. They also held a mock funeral for outdoor ice hockey. But a solidarity pond hockey tournament that had been planned in Whitehorse, Yukon had to be cancelled, organizers said, because of abnormally high temperatures.
Even this year's Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy are ''haunted by the specter of global warming,'' campaign organizers said in a statement. Alpine areas below 1,600 meters are receiving 20 percent less snow, they said citing researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research.
''Many people are concerned about the effect of climate change on the melting of the arctic icecaps and the increase in intensity and frequency of hurricanes, but not many realize that climate change will also have a profound effect on the winter tourism and sports industry,'' they added.
''A UN report states the obvious: 'Climate Change is a severe threat to snow-related sports'.''
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