Excess heat, rising sea levels, changes in precipitation may derail global sports
The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has already forced major global sport events off the track — and climate change is set to make it worse — a new report published in Rapid Transition Alliance (RTA) on June 20, 2020 has warned.
RTA gathers, shares and demonstrates evidence of climate change that triggers environmental damage. It is coordinated by a small group of people drawn from the New Weather Institute, the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex, the ESRC STEPS Centre at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) and the Institute of Development Studies.
The report provided the first provisional estimate of climate change impact on global sport. It warned that climate emergency, including droughts, forest fires and erratic rainfall, will have severe consequences on several sports including cricket, football, sailing, windsurfing etc.
Cricket will be the hardest hit by climate change, the report claimed. In fact, cricket in Australia has already been affected by rising temperature in the country; the authorities there have already commissioned a research on the subject.
In 2019, the British Association For Sustainable Sport, too, had sounded an alarm on impact of changing climate on cricket.
Melbourne city will likely experience a heat spell of 35 degrees Celsius and above over an average of 26 days, with high summer maximums of 50°C. Other Australian cities such as Adelaide and Perth will see a 60 per cent increase in 40°C plus days by 2030. These cities have been asked to shift the boxing day test to November / March.
More than half the destinations for winter sports will likley be unsuitable to host sports such as ice hockey and skiing, according to David Goldblatt, author of the report. Of the 19 locations, 10 could be used to host winter sport in 2050 and six in 2080.
Rainfall deficit and drought will affect cricket in the future as well. In 2016, 13 IPL games were moved from Maharashtra owing to the worst drought in over 100 years.
The 2018 Cape Town in South Africa drought severely affected water use at sports grounds. Lower water flow due to drought will affect riverine sports like canoeing as well.
Extreme events such as hurricanes have also been on the rise in the last three decades with greater levels of precipitation and new geographical and seasonal patterns of rainfall. A quarter of English league football grounds will be at risk from flooding every season, the report claimed.
Every third open golf course in the United kingdom will be damaged by rising sea levels, and two-third of all beaches in the southern half of California will be gone by the end of this century, according to the report.
In more immediate danger from sea level rises and coastal erosion are seaside golf links. Beaches and their surfing culture too will be impacted due to sea level rise.
A contributor itself
Sport is not just a victim of change, but an important contributor to climate change, the report said.
According to report estimates, the International Olympics Committee has a carbon footprint close to that of Barbados. Even as the global sports carbon emissions are equivalent to nations as large and populous as Angola or Tunisia, it is still an underestimate.
While the climate emergency cannot be denied, the global sports industry is responsible for at least 0.6 per cent of global emissions that makes it responsible for 300–350 million tonnes of carbond dioxide emissions, the report said.
And yet, the state of sport’s environmental commitment and governance is woefully inadequate, the report flagged. Only a tiny fraction of the world’s thousands of sporting bodies, federations, tournaments, leagues and clubs have signed up to the UN Sport for Climate Action Framework.
Even fewer have actual carbon targets and plan to deliver on these commitments. This includes the Confederation of African Football.
Cricket is yet to be the signatory of this framework. International Cricket Council and Board of Control for Cricket in India are among those that have not yet signed the UN framework.
Global sports and the industry should decarbonise
The sports world must acknowledge its own role in creating the problem and radically reduce its carbon footprint, underlined the report in its recommendations.
It urged all global sport federations, their national members and professional sports leagues / tours to sign the UN Sport for Climate Action Framework and commit to reach climate neutrality by 2050.
But there are no targets in the framework and no control mechanism, noted the report. Within one year of signing the UN framework, the signatories must draw up and publish a comprehensive ten-year plan to ensure that their own operations and that of their sport are carbon- zero by 2030.
After 2030, any global sports events or tours that are not carbon zero should be cancelled or postponed, the report stated.
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