Turkish athletes warn against dramatic effects of climate change

Witnessing the effects of climate change in the mountains and at sea, Turkish outdoor athletes are trying to raise awareness about the issue. Turkish diver Şahika Ercümen said that she has been swimming amid plastic rather than fish, while Turkish Mountaineering Federation (TDF) President Ersan Başar said snow and glaciers at the mountains were melting at a rapid pace.

Turkish diver Şahika Ercümen is seen in this photo.

Duvar English 

Several Turkish outdoor athletes who have witnessed ecological changes in the mountains or at sea are seeking to raise awareness about the climate crisis.

Speaking to BBC's Turkish service on Nov. 26, several Turkish outdoor athletes discussed the effects of climate change on their environments.

Turkish Mountaineering Federation (TDF) President Ersan Başar, who has been mountaineering for nearly 30 years and is highly familiar with Turkey’s mountains, said climate change was noticeable in mountains 4,000-5,000 meters high, as the snow and glaciers were melting at a rapid pace.

“Mountains that have prevailed since the ice age are now disappearing before our eyes,” Başar warned.

The mountaineer also discussed the case of two glaciers located atop Turkey’s Kaçkar Mountains in the Eastern Black Sea region, which have been climbed for years. While the largest glacier has lost 20 percent of its volume, the smaller one split in half and completely disintegrated, he said.

For the past two years, the Turkish Mountain Championships have been held in the higher mountains of the Black Sea region due to climate change.

The Turkish Mountaineering Federation carries out awareness trainings with regards to sustainable mountaineering.

Professional mountaineer and mountain guide Tunç Fındık drew attention to the fact that more and more heavy rains and storms occur in Turkey, and that the temperature had risen in the winter months. He said that while even in the summer there was heavy snow and ice atop the Aladağlar, Kaçkar, Ağrı and Reşko mountains, this hasn’t been the case in recent years.

“We used to experience -40 degrees in the winter in Erzurum, now it stays at -2, -3 degrees, so nothing freezes. A serious drought has also caused a decrease in water resources," Fındık said.

In the eastern provinces of Erzurum and Rize, waterfalls, which used to freeze for four months in winter no longer freeze and have ceased to flow as much as they used to.

Freediving national team member and world record-holder Şahika Ercümen said that in recent years, she has been swimming amid plastic rather than fish. The freediver serves as Turkey’s Defender of Aquatic Life for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and has sought to draw attention to the increase in pollution and the advent of invasive alien species in the Turkish seas.

“In addition to the increase in air temperatures in Turkey, I’m also actively working on such issues as mucilage which are caused by negligence in wastewater management,” Ercümen said.

In May 2021, an outbreak of mucilage devastated the Marmara Sea damaging its ecosystem and hurting the fishing industry.

According to Şahika Ercümen, the rise in temperatures, pollution and the invasive species cause indigenous species to migrate northward and threaten ecosystems.

Climate change is ruining the workplace of outdoor athletes and putting their lives at risk. In mountain sports, the melting of the glaciers causes rock decay, changing the direction of the streams and playing on the mountain beds, so athletes can get lost and have accidents by having to change the routes they have followed for years. At sea, increasing pollution limits visibility and puts the health of athletes at risk.