Climate Change, Sport

Climate change: the threat to sport as we know it

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic brought a halt to all sporting events and left us without them for nearly three months. However, for many, this is merely a dress rehearsal for the increased effect climate change will have on sport.

At the 2018 World Cup in Russia, drink breaks were introduced in football for the first time due to the extreme heat. 

England cricket captain Joe Root suffered from dehydration and had to be taken to hospital after competing in 43-degree heat in the fifth test of the 2018 Ashes.

Both tennis and cricket have since introduced ‘extreme heat’ policies, allowing umpires to suspend or abandon games if it is deemed too hot. Cricket games in Australia have already faced cancellation, something we might have to get used to sooner rather than later.

For the first time ever the 2022 FIFA World Cup will be played in the winter rather than the summer, due to the extreme heat expected in Qatar. Even with this change in place, temperatures could still reach up to 25 degrees.

What does this mean for the future of sport? 

Well, experts are predicting by 2050 one in four English football grounds will face flooding every year. In golf, one in three UK courses will feel the effect of rising sea levels. 

In addition, out of the 19 countries who have hosted the Winter Olympics, only ten will still be able to do so by 2050. 

Venues in Adelaide and Perth are projected to have a 60% increase in days with temperatures above 40-degrees over the coming decade.

To help tackle these issues, the UN created the Sport for Climate Action framework. This contains five key principles for sport: to undertake systematic efforts to promote greater environmental responsibility, reduce overall climate impact, educate for climate action, promote sustainable and responsible consumption and advocate for climate action through communication. 

On top of this, at COP26 the UN will now also require governing bodies to achieve a 50% reduction in overall C02 emissions by 2030 and be net zero by 2040.

It is now up to the governing bodies to change the way their sports operate, as well as what we can do in our lives to make a change to prevent climate change from getting worse. There is no better time to start than now.

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June 2022
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