If you are looking to reduce carbon dioxide and its world-warming cousins in the atmosphere, you really have two options. The first is to find that moon-shot technology which radically disrupts global energy practices. The second is create the circumstances for international co-operation. Could the International Olympic Committee be the organisation to solve global warming?
When thinking about solutions to contemporary energy practices, first thoughts tend towards technological innovation. These projects receive capital through governmental organisations like ARPA-E, universities, and the broad venture capital community. But whether it be the next new battery; step changes in hydroelectric, nuclear, wind; or ambitious geoengineering projects; we are yet to find that moon-shot technology which radically disrupts the practices of global energy. Awesome innovative cultures are producing incremental gains, but are these gains enough?
The second thoughts, then, may go towards global co-operation. Every two years we see spectacular examples of this, in the form of the summer and winter Olympics. The Olympic and Paralympic Games, whether their winter or summer variety, are significantly affected by changing global geography. The organising committees hold sway not only through host selection, but also as global thought leaders.
The Olympics: directly affected
There are three categories in which the Olympics is directly affected by physical and regulatory manifestations of climate change. The first is its athletes’ ability to train, and even for its participant nations to survive. As viable training grounds shrink, through greater variability in outdoor conditions, the nature of ‘work-in-progress’ athletic training would shift. Inequity in terms of funding or preparatory facilities is not new, and elite athletes already seek optimal training conditions. But this deepens the challenge. Indeed, island states, extinguished by ocean rises, may be generating athletes under the banners of independent or refugee.
The second is domestic infrastructure regulations. As host cities bid for and then build Olympic infrastructure, they face local, rising, regulation. This changes the costs and ambitions of the bids.
Building on this, the third is hosts’ ecological limitations. In The Lancet, a medical journal, researchers discuss how fewer countries will retain the potential to host outside summer sport. Some sports, such as marathons, become harder to operate given the current format’s intensity. Ben Jervey in National Geographic describes the challenges with winter games. Not only do certain sports, like skeleton, face prohibitive cost and elimination, but former host cities are losing their ecological capacity to bid again. Artificial snow, long in use, is now matched with extreme examples like Vancouver 2010 airlifting ice up mountains. And both Olympics are affected by the risk of disease, exacerbated by climate change, as displayed at Rio 2016 with Zika.
The Olympics: their response
The current Olympic response to climate change is embedded within ‘the Olympic Agenda 2020’. The current phase of the ‘Implementation Plan – 2016 and beyond’ puts a new ‘special focus’ on ecological sustainability in assessing host cities’ bids. They want to extend sustainable practices along all stages of bidding, whilst levering policy knowledge from new strategic partnerships with UN organisations like WHO and the World Food Program. It remains to be seen whether this deeper emphasis will make material differences, and recent history may suggest scepticism. For example, Beijing 2008’s smog reduction success did not last.  But the host city bidding process does enable stricter controls. And amongst all the controversy of international sport,  there is still scope for thought-leadership. Perhaps they can rely on the words of Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics:
The important thing in life is not triumph, but the struggle; the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well. Spreading these principles is to prepare a more valiant, more strong and, above all, more scrupulous and more generous humanity.  (682 words)
 The word ‘variability’ occurs 711 times in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Climate Change 2014 (Part A) report
 See, for example, the training difficulties of Olympians Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards and Eric ‘The Eel’ Moussambani, who both achieved national records in their respective Olympic games
 Smith, Kirk R et alia (2016, 13 August). ‘The last Summer Olympics? Climate change, health, and work outdoors’, The Lancet, Volume 388 , Issue 10045 , p642 – 644. Retrieved from http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(16)31335-6/abstract
 Jervey, Ben (2014, February 22). ‘Climate change threatens the future of the Winter Olympics’. National Geographic. Retrieved from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/02/140221-climate-change-winter-olympics-global-warming-science/
 Mercer, Greg (2016, Feb 24). ‘The link between Zika and climate change’. The Atlantic. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/02/zika-and-climate-change/470643/
 International Olympic Committee (2016). ‘Olympic Agenda 2020 / Implementation Plan – 2016 and Beyond’. Retrieved from https://stillmed.olympic.org/media/Document%20Library/OlympicOrg/Documents/Olympic-Agenda-2020/Olympic-Agenda-2020-Implementation-Plan-2016-and-Beyond.pdf#_ga=1.34535141.517009464.1478221155
 Ramzy, Austin (2008, April 15). ‘Beijing’s Olympic War on Smog’. TIME.Com. Retrieved from http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1730918,00.html
 BBC (2015, December 7). ‘Beijing smog: Images before and after’. BBC News. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-35028483
 BBC (2016, August 8). ‘Rio Paralympics 2016: Russian athletes banned after doping scandal’. BBC News. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/sport/disability-sport/37002582
 Ingle, Sean (2016, August 25). ‘Tokyo Olympic games corruption claims bring scandal back to the IOC’. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/may/11/tokyo-olympic-games-2020-ioc-international-olympic-committee-corruption-bid-scandal
 Translated from French, 24th July 1908, p793, T. A. Cook Fourth Olympiad (1909). Retrieved from http://library.la84.org/6oic/OfficialReports/1908/1908.pdf