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    Ice skating rinks pollute Climate Conference host cities

    In a Scandinavian climate growing still warmer as a result of the global heating, cooling down ice skating rinks takes up a lot of electricity. Regardless, there is a rink situated in front of the Musikhuset, where an international climate change conference is currently happening.

    When scientists, politicians, NGO’s and more gather in Århus to discuss serious climate change matters, they will be welcomed by the sight of an environmental sinner in the shape of an old fashioned ice skating rink situated right in front of the entrance to the Musikhuset.

    This is where experts will speak their mind on today’s environmental challenges during the Beyond Kyoto conference running the next couple of days.

    Traditional rinks with real ice surfaces like the one in Århus are very electricity-consuming due to the cooling process that keeps the rinks frozen during the average three months opening season.

    Same situation in Copenhagen

    The Beyond Kyoto conference is not the only major climate conference that Denmark will host this year. In December Copenhagen is host for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change while at the same time the city’s three ice skating rinks will let out more than 800.000 kilos of CO2 into the atmosphere.

    On a very cold day, the rinks stay frozen without electric cooling systems, but few days during a Danish winter are that icy.

    Plastic-rinks spare the environment

    One environmentally-friendly option is to use rinks made out of plastic ice. Sweden, Holland and Germany are among the countries that have  these rinks.

    Last year Denmark’s first and only outdoor synthetic ice skating rink was established in Helsingør, not far from Copenhagen. The surface of the rink is made out of a special kind of hard plastic that is kept slick with lubrication.

    “As time goes by, I think we will see more and more plastic rinks, because people have to focus still more on the environment in order to maintain our nature for the next generations,” says Birgitte Bergman from the Growth and Science department of Helsingør City Center.

    According to Bergman, the city of Helsingør saves approximately 300.000-400.000 DKR on the electricity bill in one single season by running a synthetic rink instead of a traditional real ice rink.

    “During a three months season, a rink with real ice uses the same amount of electricity as approximately 30-40 [electrically heated] family houses will do over  the same period,” says Bergman.

    Limits to plastic rinks

    The skating rink of Helsingør isn’t as smooth as real ice. Skaters will only reach around 85 percent of the speed they experience when skating on real ice.

    Pia Allerslev, head of the culture- and spare time department of the municipality of Copenhagen, claims that the skating experience is not adequate on a plastic surface. Being less slick, it suits children and first time skaters perfectly, but more experienced users will lack speed and advanced skating opportunities.

    “Concerning our responsibilities for the environment, it might seem strange, but we also have to assure the skaters a good experience. Otherwise we might as well not have any ice skating rinks. We shouldn’t be so environmentally concerned that we chase away users of the rinks,” Allerslev says.

    This is the main reason why she is somewhat reluctant to have all of Copenhagen’s ice rinks turned into plastic rinks. She is open for the synthetic skating surfaces as soon as scientists have developed a material of better quality.

    “Maybe within three or four years we will see plastic surfaces on skating rinks that offer the same experience as real ice,” she says.

    An ice rink sits right outside the Musikhuset in Aarhus, Denmark. Photo by Robin Saga

    An ice rink sits right outside the Musikhuset in Aarhus, Denmark. Photo by Robin Saga

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