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Discussion: Climate change, O and race cancellations

in: Orienteering; General

Jul 19, 2022 11:53 AM # 
With climate change-mediated extreme weather in the news yet again and hot off the cancelled JWOC forest races due to wildfire risk I was wondering if IOF and/or member federations have policies or committees in place to deal with, prepare for and/or plan for extreme weather?
Jul 19, 2022 11:54 AM # 
Funny you mention that - pretty much my first act on IOF Council was to start the ball rolling on getting a working group together to look at this.
Jul 19, 2022 12:35 PM # 
I notice that Qld again postponed/cancelled their recent MTBO event that was originally scheduled for June but was pushed out due to excessive rain causing crap conditions. I assume it was the same thing that happened again two days ago.
Jul 19, 2022 11:42 PM # 
I think race organizers would be wise to build extreme weather into their cancellation and refund policy. ie Force Majeure
Jul 20, 2022 4:36 AM # 
@tRicky, I believe it was covid second time around.
Jul 20, 2022 6:22 AM # 
They will need to think twice before organising another major event in Mediterranean / Southern Europe forests in the summer.
Jul 20, 2022 6:36 AM # 
in the meanwhile
Jul 21, 2022 9:39 PM # 
And what about policies to reduce the impact of our sport? Our main source of emissions would be participant travel, so reducing the frequency of major international events (e.g WOC, WMOC every 2 years) seems like a good idea to me.
Jul 21, 2022 9:46 PM # 
I think O-ringen and Jukola have a far bigger carbon footprint than WOC
Jul 21, 2022 9:57 PM # 
Ban international travel. Also local travel that involves a car but that would put big oil companies out of business and we can't have that.
Jul 22, 2022 6:43 AM # 
Ban international travel... we tried that didn't we? Now the roads are full of caravans.
Jul 22, 2022 7:13 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
Is it orienteering's responsibility to reduce its maximum fun-ness when no one else seems to care?

Examples given:

* College football with 100,000 attendees
* World series, Super Bowl, NBA finals, NHL finals
* World Cup
* Any major marathon
* Disney + other various theme parks
* Le Tour
* Anyone buying things shipped by giant barges

Sort of feels like being told to put on a sweater and set the winter thermostat at 65 deg F / 18 deg C by someone who has three houses, none of which they are at because they are on their boat. Or took a jet to a climate conference.

Somewhere there's a chart ranking things by environmental impact and if you go 1000 miles to the right of it, there is orienteering.
Jul 22, 2022 10:48 PM # 
Thanks Mr Wonderful for yet again reminding us why we are in this mess - "If other people are trashing the planet why should I stop".

Arguing about who emits the most carbon isn't that helpful, but given many orienteers are well-off westerners who choose to travel to events nationally and internationally (guilty as charged) I'd say the impact of our sport on a per person basis is significant.

Climate change is already doing it's bit to reduce the fun-ness of orienteering, JWOC forest races cancelled, extreme temperatures and wildfires elsewhere in Europe, fire risk in the western USA. So it's time we seriously look at both adaptation and what we can do to mitigate impacts.

@blairtrewin what about IOF targeting orienteering being a carbon neutral sport? Offset emissions from IOF events, encourage national federations/other major events to pursue the goal too.

Of course offsetting isn't as good as not emitting in the first place, but we all like running around in forests so the least we can do is plant some more :)
Jul 23, 2022 12:22 AM # 
With fuel prices as they are, local events are winners.
Jul 23, 2022 2:26 AM # 
Mr Wonderful:
I think this is the first time in an eleven year history on attack point that I got someone to create an account just to respond to me.
Jul 23, 2022 2:42 AM # 
We are tiny, I don't think reducing the number of WOCs achieves anything other than virtue signalling
Jul 23, 2022 3:08 AM # 
offsetting isn't as good as not emitting in the first place

Well put, Greta
Jul 23, 2022 6:18 AM # 
Mr Wonderful, you're hot property.

TIL I thought Aus fuel was getting expensive, then I came to Europe.
Jul 23, 2022 9:31 AM # 
Offsetting gets a bad name because quite a lot of offsetting schemes have what could be politely described as creative accounting, but if it's done properly it can work. "Net zero" is going to require significant quantities of emissions to be removed from the atmosphere (since some residual emissions will be unavoidable), and at present the only technology we have to do that at scale is trees. Getting involved in getting more forests planted is something that should be a no-brainer for us (and obviously has benefits for our sport beyond anything to do with climate change).
Jul 23, 2022 10:29 AM # 
Trees, trees, trees are three solutions and I like the idea but what is really happening in the annual cycle of the trees.
Apparently trees produce leaves that soak in carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere? And that is good.
But what happens when the season changes the leaves fall and start to decay? Does the carbon soak into the ground or is it released back into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide?
We know that carbon material that decays in marshes or otherwise underground converts to methane which is undoubtedly very harmful for the atmosphere. What about above ground decaying carbon material?
Jul 23, 2022 11:30 AM # 
It's released, but roughly balanced by the CO2 taken up by new growth in the spring. Seasonal vegetation growth and decay (and the fact that most of the world's land area is in the Northern Hemisphere) is why global CO2 concentrations have a seasonal cycle - they peak around May and reach a (relative) minimum around November.
Jul 23, 2022 4:58 PM # 
So what you are saying is that no matter how many trees that are planted to absorb CO2 those same trees will be giving off as much CO2 as they absorb through the course of the annual cycle, right?
I guesss we'd better start looking elsewhere for our salvation.
Jul 23, 2022 5:52 PM # 
I have nothing against planting trees, though it always seems strange to me since I come from a place where that's not necessary: just stand back and any open land will rapidly turn into forest if you don't do anything to stop it. But refraining from cutting down forest to replace it with something like paved surfaces is clearly a good move. The forest floor gets thicker, and that new stuff being deposited is largely carbon.

As for cutting back on events, that may not have the intended effect. Are the would-be participants just going to stay home? Or are they mostly going to travel somewhere else anyway? Maybe even to participate in some other activity with a larger carbon footprint than orienteering.
Jul 23, 2022 6:09 PM # 
gordhun, the balance may be true for a mature forest. New/growing forests, however, are continually adding woody biomass, and thus storing carbon for potentially hundreds of years before starting a very slow decomposition process. That makes them good sinks.
Jul 24, 2022 11:15 AM # 
"Virtue signalling". When did doing the right thing become abhorrent. Oh, yes, when it suited Murdoch. "Virtue signalling" when hypocritical, yes, but small acts of sensible behaviour are not all hypocritical, even if their impact is small. Lets not let discussion be framed by the Murdoch empire.
Jul 24, 2022 1:27 PM # 
I actually think the symbolic value of making genuine efforts to reduce emissions is hugely important as it helps overcome the “no one else cares so why should I” barrier to change.

I really hope we see the IOF, federations and clubs discussing ways for us to reduce the emissions associated with participation in our sport. Even just recognising it as an issue is a good start. At the local level I’d love to see an increase car pooling to events and it would be interesting to see what it’d take to make an event carbon neutral.
Jul 25, 2022 1:12 AM # 
I second the carpooling comment, 007. Any developers out there interested in creating some kind of app to match drivers with people looking to carpool? I'd DIY it but my coding abilities don't really extend beyond corpus linguistics.
Jul 25, 2022 4:51 AM # 
(possibly UK-only and COVID appears to have killed it)
Jul 25, 2022 5:44 AM # 
the Irish Mountain Running Association has had a carpool option running on its website for many years -
Jul 25, 2022 5:58 AM # 
Back to the original if I may... it is 25 July 2022 (24 July Pacific). A major fire of 63 km² is burning and is about to deposit its AQI onto the more populated parts of Northern California. Just like during each of the prior years since 2017. An IOF Regional Championship is scheduled for 21 July 2023 through 24 July 2023 for the general area. What's the plan?
Jul 25, 2022 7:07 AM # 
Uncle JiM:
Bendigo had a Carpooling/Training page on FaceBook, never took of
Jul 25, 2022 1:26 PM # 
That's because many Bendigo members don't know if they're doing the Saturday event until about a minute before it starts so can't organise anything.
Jul 31, 2022 3:52 PM # 
Yikes! McKinney Fire explodes to 50,000+ ha after igniting on just Friday evening (36'ish hours ago).
Jul 31, 2022 9:01 PM # 
These fires break my heart. Two years ago I was stuck indoors for weeks choking on smoke while the massive Lionshead fire destroyed the small town where I used to camp as a kid. I waited with bated breath as the flames came dangerously close to destroying my favorite place on earth. At roughly the same time, a dear friend was evacuating her house in the Sierras to flee from the Creek Fire. Five years ago one of my friends lost a family home in the Santa Rosa Tubbs Fire. Seven years ago I waited helplessly through the Valley Fire, while half the town of Middleton was destroyed and we lost one of BAOC's best maps. It keeps happening, and it's getting worse every year. The scariest thing is that we're just barely starting to feel the full effects of climate change.

Whenever a policy-maker suggests that we focus on 'adaptation', I want people to understand what adaptation means. It's not some gentle process of building a few new roads and retaining walls. It's a devastating process that destroys people's homes and livelihoods. Adaptation means that ancient forests and irreplaceable natural wonders are lost forever. Adaption means that we have to get used to choking on smoke every summer. Adaptation means that millions of people will be turned into climate refugees from fires, flooding, and drought. The people of New Orleans or Paradise California are just the first wave of refugees. Even in rich countries like the US, adaptation means traumatic loss.

As these fires and heat waves become more common, people like us will need to adapt. But I am personally going to let my government know that I expect more than just adaptation. As far as I'm concerned, anything less than a real strategy to reach net-zero emissions is unacceptable.
Aug 1, 2022 12:38 AM # 
Have not forest fires been part of the cycle of life in North America since before recorded history? If so then they are not caused by climate change.
There are those who argue quite strongly that what has happened in the last couple of centuries is that we have stifled the natural cycle of fires thus building up the local supply of combustables so that when the fire is sparked as it eventually will be there is more material to feed the fire.
Florida and other southeastern states recognize this phenomenon. They endorse and support programs of regular prescribed burns to encourage the natural regeneration of forests while burning off decaying material in a planned controlled manner.
In Florida where I stage events the orienteering clubs and their participants definitely benefit from the aftermath of these planned burn events.
I know there is different vegetation and different weather in the west but it may be worth it for counties to keep the ground vegetation under control, by prescribed burns, in areas around population centers.
Aug 1, 2022 1:19 AM # 
As far as adaptation is concerned, one thing which needs to be remembered is that the time lag between a change in emissions pathway and the resultant changes in the climate is about 20 years (partly because it takes that long for the deep oceans to come into equilibrium with atmospheric forcing), so the changes that will occur over the next 20 years are largely determined by emissions which have already happened. Hence both adaptation and mitigation (which will determine whether the climate stabilises and if so, at what level) are important - they should not be spoken of as alternatives to each other.

Also, even if no further warming were to take place, most places have not been exposed to the full range of extremes which are possible in a 1.1-1.2C climate (which is about where we are now). As one example, most years now, we see somewhere in the world each summer in which heat records are broken by 3C or more (this year northern England, last year the Pacific Northwest/BC, in earlier years the likes of Chile or South Africa), but most specific locations haven't yet experienced an event of that severity, for no particular reason other than good luck.
Aug 1, 2022 2:24 AM # 
re: climate change vs fuel load

It's both!

Canada’s Blueprint for Wildfire Science summarizes the complexity of fire very well at the start of the executive summary. It states

“Canada is at a critical crossroads in relation to wildland fire. The changing climate is creating longer fire seasons characterized by fires that are more severe, more complex, and more expensive to manage. At the same time, decades of fire suppression and forest management policies have changed landscapes, affecting the ways in which fires occur and behave. Additionally, more human activity is occurring in forested areas, which is placing more communities, infrastructure, and economic activities at risk from large wildland fire events.”

we can insert orienteering into the last sentence
Aug 1, 2022 4:26 AM # 
what's the plan for North American Orienteering Championships 2023? I'd much rather do the Swiss O-Week and the O-Ringen if there's no plan. (It's not just the unbearable me, it's a couple hundred other, mostly Euro potential participants.)
Aug 1, 2022 5:43 AM # 
The plan, AFAIK, is for BAOC to host the event on the dates they've announced. Obviously, there's an appreciable risk that won't be possible next year, although my occasional checks of Purple Air over the course of the last couple of weeks suggest the air quality would have been fine if the event had been held on the same dates this summer.

What kind of plan do you think there should be, assuming changing the dates and/or venue are off the table and BAOC lacks the God-like power to simply prevent forest fires? It's not as though the organizers didn't consider a range of possible dates. It may just be that we're at the point where you SHOULD plan on attending other events instead if that's what your personal risk assessment leads you to think best.

(ETA: separately, I've been thinking about whether OUSA should/can have a backup plan for NAOC races to occur sometime in the fall, presumably as part of an event that will proceed as just another NRE weekend if the NAOC races are held successfully in July. Outreach to potential organizers only just begun.)
Aug 1, 2022 5:50 AM # 
I should say that adaptation is absolutely necessary, we can't avoid it at this point. My anger is particularly aimed at a select number of policy makers who are actively arguing that adaptation should be our only focus, and that mitigation is a waste of time.

The influence of climate change on forests is highly regional. Out here in the American West (the region I know best), there are many confounding factors. A lot of emphasis gets placed on a history of suppression. Forest management is certainly important. Things like controlled burns can help a lot (except when they don't). Logging corporations love to talk about forest management as a code-word for more logging, despite dubious scientific support. I have seen changes in management over the years, with more efforts to build fire-breaks and do some limited controlled burns, but preventative fire management remains highly underfunded nationwide. Ironically, the huge expenses involved in fighting massive fires has strained the funding of agencies involved in fire suppression, and hindered their ability to do preventative work.

But even with good preventative efforts, many of the factors are strongly climate linked. Winters are warmer, and this is allowing outbreaks of bark-beetles that strain the conifer forests. The snowpacks we depend on for summer moisture are becoming less consistent and melting sooner. The early melt allows for more early vegetation growth, and this is followed by a longer drying-period, which turns the vegetation into tinder. Then, extreme heat waves (like the one that's keeping me stuck inside and cranky this week) are providing ideal conditions for massive conflagrations. Under these pressures, the structure and types of forest we see will inevitably change.
Aug 1, 2022 5:58 AM # 
More practically...

As meet organizers, we should probably establish some guidelines for what kind of AQI's and other fire-risks we are willing to expose our staff and participants too.

A couple months ago I was talking with some other orienteering meet directors about the difficult decisions they had to make during an event that become smoky. They had to consult with medical professionals and make a decision on the spot. That's not an easy decision to make after months of hard work preparing an event, and many hours of travel from participants. In the future, we should probably start heading into our events with some clear-cut guidelines.
Aug 1, 2022 7:50 AM # 
(a) BAOC has perfectly capable winter venues and (b) even the little Oak Fire was enough to send the AQI in some places in the Tahoe Basin above 150 last week. I frankly don't understand this irrational attachment to the Sierra Nevada venues and at a time within the calendar when there are ample international-event schedule conflicts.
Aug 1, 2022 7:42 PM # 
I can certainly understand the desire to hold meets in the Tahoe Basin. I absolutely love running in the Sierras and I'd make a long trip to do it. The maps at Joe Grant and Pacheco are fine, but running on oak hillsides just isn't the same. I might go out of my way for a springtime meet at a lower-elevation forest like Boggs Mountain or Big Basin, but those maps already burned.
Aug 1, 2022 7:44 PM # 
On other notes, meet organizers should probably start ramping up our seriousness about preventing and responding to local fires. This might mean things like:

- Picking parking locations for event staging more carefully. Being careful to avoid fields and roadside parking where hot car engines can spark dry grass. Making sure that large events have a good escape routes, and preferably with more than one access road.

- Potentially including some basic fire-suppression tools (like shovels and small extinguishers) in meet supplies.

- Having plans to stage rapid evacuations. Maybe siren systems to recall competitors in the case of a dangerous fire nearby. And ways to quickly ensure that all competitors have returned safely in the case of such an emergency.

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