Climate Change Threatens “Australian Way of Life”, Outdoor Sports
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Climate Change Threatens “Australian Way of Life”, Outdoor Sports

Australians love their outdoor sports – nothing quite beats a game of cricket or tennis on a bright summer’s day. But as temperatures continue to rise due to climate change, experts are warning that playing sports outdoors could become a thing of the past.

The latest report from the UN-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that many species – including human beings – risk reaching the limit of their ability to adapt to climate change. This could have serious implications for our health, as well as the economy and Australian way of life.

Professor Mark Howden, IPCC vice chair and report co-author, said that while our bodies can cope with hot temperatures up to a certain point, eventually it will become too dangerous to play sports outdoors.

“Our bodies can cope with hot, hot temperatures outside up to a point,” Professor Howden said.

“But then we can’t do that without some sort of active cooling. If you get very high temperatures and humidity, you either have to pull back on your exercise or you overheat.

“If you’re still wanting to be active, you actually have to find some way of having active cooling in that environment.

Professor Howden added that Australian workdays might also need a rethink – with options including a siesta during the day to avoid peak temperatures.

Reaching Limits On Adaptive Capacity

Adaptive capacity is the term used to describe the ability of a species to adapt to a disturbance or potential damage – climate change being one such disturbance. The latest IPCC report warns that, as temperatures continue to rise, many species will eventually reach the limit of their ability to adapt.

We have already seen this grim reality play out in the world’s coral reefs. The Great Barrier Reef – one of Australia’s most iconic natural wonders – is on the brink of extinction, largely due to the impacts of climate change.

Coral’s natural adaptive capacity is reaching its limits, broadly evidenced by coral bleaching, a process where higher than usual sea surface temperatures cause the expulsion of photosynthetic algae, called zooxanthellae. This leaves the coral white and likely to die.

Humans, like any species, have physiological limits. The idea that outdoor physical activities are under threat might seem far-fetched but, without immediate and aggressive action to reduce emissions, it may be a very real possibility.

The IPCC report said while actions to reduce climate risks had increased worldwide, they fell well short of what was required.

“Successful adaptation requires urgent, more ambitious and accelerated action and, at the same time, rapid and deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions,” the report said.

Professor Howden said that governments know what they need to do to address climate change, but were holding back for political reasons.

“Climate change is here. In Australia it’s mostly negative, and it really matters to pretty much everything we value here in Australia,” he said.

“Listen to the people … 90 per cent of Australians want more action on climate change.

“If there was any other issue that had 90 per cent of people wanting more action on it, you’d have the politicians running for the policy development process immediately.

“Yet we don’t see that … climate change should not be a political issue.”

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Cricket Australia and AFL’s Gameplan To Tackle Climate Change

Long before the release of the IPCC report, both Cricket Australia and the AFL have been working on ways to reduce their carbon footprints and lessen the impact of climate change – knowing that the very future of their game is at stake.

Earlier this year, Cricket Australia launched Cricket for Climate and its solar panel project Solar Clubs, with a goal to have cricket clubs around the nation install solar panels to drive down their costs and reduce carbon emissions.

The program, backed by some of the biggest names in Australian cricket, aims to be a force for change that inspires other sporting codes to take action. Australian men’s cricket captain Pat Cummins spoke of the threat that climate change poses to the sport.

“Few sports are more imperilled by global warming and it’s time for clubs and cricketers at every level to step up and be part of the solution”, said Cummins.

Following the devastating black summer bushfires that wreaked devastation across the east coast of Australia in 2019/2020, the AFL community also announced its own climate action plan – AFL Players For Climate Action (AFLP4CA).

AFLP4CA, a registered charity, represents over 260 AFL players who want to do more to tackle climate change. The AFLP4CA team is currently running two projects, Footy4climate and The Cool Down, with the intent of reducing or offsetting players carbon emissions and advocating for greater climate ambition.

Australia’s iconic sporting stadiums are also getting in on the act, with the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) announcing last month that it is set to become the first major stadium in Australia to run on 100 per cent renewable power.

Let’s hope that the examples set by Cricket Australia, the AFL and other sporting codes, along with the voices of the Australian public will spur politicians to take the necessary action on climate change before it’s too late.

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