Climate change poses a major threat to all aspects of human life, and sports are no exception.
Increasing temperatures and more frequent extreme weather events are threatening ability to play sports across the globe. While winters are getting shorter, summers are hotter, which places undue strain on athletes.
However, where moving competitions isn’t a viable option, some countries are considering rescheduling their summer sports seasons to cooler months.
Climate scientists are now saying Melbourne is becoming dangerously hot for tennis players and that the Australian Open should be moved to the spring or fall instead.
While rescheduling seasons may be a long-term solution for summer sports, it’s not a luxury available to winter events that require snow and sub-zero temperatures.
Despite these threats, little is being done across sports leagues to adopt green initiatives and curb climate change.
Dr. Mary Louise Adams, a professor at Queen’s School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, said sports’ general unwillingness to take climate action seriously is unfortunate, particularly given its ability to promote important social change.
“[Climate change] is going to affect every single aspect of our society, and so pointing at things like sports is a way of kind of bringing it home to people who are maybe feeling a little bit too comfortable or thinking it’s not going to happen,” Adams told The Journal.
Adams, who’s currently doing research about the relationship of parks and recreation to environmental issues like biodiversity loss and climate change, thinks a big step forward for the sporting industry would be to curb new stadium construction and make existing facilities more eco-friendly.
“One of the [ways sports can be more eco-friendly] is trying to curb the development, like not always needing a bigger, newer kind of stadium, you know; reduce, reuse, recycle, that kind of thing. A lot of habitat destruction comes from building,” Adams said.
“[T]he environmental impact of sports is massive, and we don’t pay enough attention to that. And, it would be easier, of course, for the public to pay attention to it, if athletes themselves were bringing it to people’s attention.”
Ideally, Adams thinks the task should fall to sport organizations, but doesn’t see this happening.
“It really should be the organizations that should bring attention [to climate change]. The IOC (International Olympic Committee) is a massive, powerful organization, it certainly has resources at its disposal to communicate important global messages. But it doesn’t tend to do that ever,” she said.
To see a real attitude shift in the sports, Adams believes the change will need to start with grassroots movements among athletes before becoming a central issue that’s taken seriously by sports organizations.
“[Change] starts outside of sport but sport can be a very powerful vehicle to spread messages and to communicate the need for change,” she said.
“I think what you see, and certainly what you’re seeing now in the Black Lives Matter movement, is that there are big social movements going on in society, and periodically we see sport connecting with them in really beneficial ways.”