Patz to speak on climate change at Birkebeiner ski race

February 17, 2014

Jonathan Patz, a UW-Madison professor of environmental studies and population health sciences and director of the Global Health Institute, will serve as keynote speaker at a Feb. 20 event titled Conversations for Climate Action at the American Birkebeiner in Hayward, Wis.

The legendary “Birkie” is North America's largest, most prestigious cross-country ski race, held annually with more than 10,000 participants. Patz, who is a Birkie skier himself, will discuss the public health and societal impacts of climate change, as well as actions to slow climate change.

With weather being the primary factor determining the success of the Birkie, researchers and event organizers are focused on what future adaptations will be needed as anticipated climate change-related challenges — warmer winters with warmer nights and less snow — hinder race conditions.

The Birkebeiner tradition was celebrated as part of the Climate Wisconsin: Stories from a State of Change project, a 12-part series to support teaching and learning about climate change in Wisconsin.

The video series highlights expected climate change impacts in a diversity of realms ranging from public health to farming and from recreational fishing to Great Lakes shipping. It was supported by research in collaboration with the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI), a program of the Nelson Institute and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

WICCI researchers are examining past climate data and future climate projections to provide a better understanding of how climate change is impacting the Birkebeiner events, which contribute millions of dollars annually to the local economy and are embraced by the community.