Some venues, such as Australia and Pakistan, may not suit cricket matches.
Because cricket depends on favorable climatic conditions, it is at the forefront of climate change impacts. Due to the numerous heat-related issues that have plagued cricket matches, the sport has adopted an “extreme heat policy,” which allows umpires to stop playing in extreme heat. These are not adaptive measures. They can only make things worse. According to reports, venues in Australia, India, and West Indies may not be able to host matches safely. This is the same situation for mega-sports such as football. According to reports, “23 of the 92 English football league teams will experience partial or complete annual flooding of their stadiums in 2050.”
Tennis games were marred by the increased frequency of wildfires and the relative air quality degradation. This was similar to the 2019 Australian Open. The damage doesn’t stop there. Winter sports will experience a similar decline due to shorter winter seasons and lower natural snow cover, particularly at lower elevations. According to studies, around 45% of the locations used for the Winter Olympics will be considered redundant by 2050. However, coastal erosion and sea-level rise will immediately impact significant seaports.
Not only can this have a direct impact on sporting events, but also the potential for severe weather events like hurricanes or typhoons to cause significant damage to buildings and infrastructure. It doesn’t matter if it’s health risks, cancellations, financial losses, or destruction of infrastructure; the overall picture is clear: climate change is bad news for the sports sector.
Sports can help limit the impacts of climate change, even though there are many challenges. This involves a dual approach. One, reducing carbon emissions by sector (thereby contributing to the climate crisis) and two, using the existing influence and outreach of sports and athletes to raise awareness. In its brief, “United Nations Sports for Climate Action Initiative,” the UNFCCC endorses this idea.
This is due to the large carbon footprint of the sector. It includes food, beverages, accommodation, traveling, infrastructure and energy consumption. According to one study, sport’s carbon footprint is “equivalent” to Bolivia on the low end and as large as Spain on the high. However, this does not include the indirect effects of global sportswear and the sports broadcasting industry. This sector can increase its environmental responsibility by accounting for the footprint and reducing it by making climate-smart entities (venues, sports equipment creation using sustainable material) and setting net-zero targets.
This latter strategy capitalizes on the worldwide popularity of sports, which provides both outreach opportunities and influence. The combined viewership for cricket and football is approximately six billion. These events can be used as outreach tools to inspire people to adopt sustainable consumption habits and increase awareness about the Sustainable Development Goals. Through initiatives like Sports for Development (S4D), children also can learn how to preserve their environment and engage in sustainable ways with nature.
Pakistani viewers accounted for 70% of all TV viewing. Similar numbers can be observed in social media engagement at sporting events. The vast sports goods industry matches this in Pakistan, generating approximately $338 million annually in export income and employing around 200,000 people. The sports industry must also reduce its carbon footprint and use sustainable manufacturing strategies. Programs such as the Kamyab Jawan Young Sports League program, which focuses on youth and children, can also be a way to get involved with S4D.
A look at the entire climate change/sports nexus confirms the sector’s role as both the giving and receiving end of the spectrum. If the industry takes proactive steps to reduce its indirect and direct footprints and influences change among sports-viewers, it can help build a sustainable future.