Sport & The Climate Crisis: What Does The Future Hold?
With the planet firmly in the grip of the climate emergency, 21st century society looks set to face a wide-range of different challenges in the years ahead and changes will need to be made to both mitigate the risks of the crisis and adapt to situations as they arise, building resilience across the board in order to limit global warming.
All sectors of society will feel the impacts of the crisis, including the global sports industry, with many activities already seeing just how rising temperatures could have an impact on how and where the game is played.
A new eight-part series has now been launched, available on Spotify, all podcast apps and Apple that investigates this very subject, looking into the links between sport and climate change, while asking the sporting community – which includes fans – to assess its contribution to the unfolding crisis.
The Emergency on Planet Sport series features athletes, clubs and governing bodies telling their stories from three different angles, covering how climate change is affecting everyday sport, the contribution of sport to the crisis and what solutions sport can bring about that will help make a difference.
Fronted by radio and TV broadcaster Jonathan Overend, the documentary series really shines a light on the scale and urgency of the challenge the world is now being presented with, featuring the impacts of the crisis such as rising seas and temperatures, and increases in extreme weather patterns.
In one episode, for example, extreme climber Will Gadd (who climbed Kilimanjaro in 2014 and 2020) explains: “Everything was half the size it used to be or just gone. Imagine if you walked downtown to your office and your whole office was gone, in fact the whole of downtown was gone. I’ve got to find a different way to do my sport.”
And in episode three, The Water Extremes, the costs of flooding and the impact of drought on cricket as a sport are investigated. Glamorgan CCC’s Dan Cherry looks into how extreme weather patterns could have an effect on cricket depending on where in the world it’s being played.
Glamorgan, for example, is the worst hit county in the UK in terms of rain and its effects during the cricketing summer, which has an impact on both the bottom line but also the ability to draw in new audiences.
In South Asia, meanwhile, water shortages are more problematic, causing serious implications for pitch maintenance. And it’s not just professional sport that will feel the effects – volunteer-led recreational clubs are also being placed under increasing pressure from natural dangers.
Another sport that is also feeling the effects of global warming already is golf – a pastime that has, in fact, been growing in popularity around the world because of the pandemic, with people still able to go and play a few rounds while socially distancing and enjoying some fresh air.
But it seems that the sport of the moment is facing a somewhat uncertain future, with the next few decades expected to be critical for clubs in the UK – and further afield.
Jim Croxton, chief executive of the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association, recently called for clubs to consider more sustainable ways to manage their layouts as the pressures of climate change take hold.
Speaking at the Golf Club Managers’ Association Conference at Wyboston Lakes, Mr Croxton explained that water is going to present an “incredible challenge” over the next couple of years… which clubs that use mains water for golf irrigation may want to make particular note of.
He was quoted by the National Club Golfer as saying: “If anyone here is reliant in anyway on mains water in any way, and if they’re south of that line between The Wash and probably the Severn Estuary, you need to give serious consideration to your water source because that pressure is going to come in the next few years.
“It nearly came this summer. There was talk of [water authorities] turning water supplies off for golf courses and other users. We as an industry need to unite on water usage, particularly in terms of how we draw from the mains but also even from your own boreholes.
He went on to say: “If you have your own boreholes on site you may not be aware that, in times of need, the water authorities can prohibit you from abstracting from it. You may need to be reliant only on the water you’ve actually stored yourselves and which has fallen on your golf course.
“Your source of water, and the resilience of that source, is absolutely critical because we simply can’t always manage turf these days, with the weather the way it is going, without some kind of irrigation solution.”
The overall environmental impact of golf courses can be quite significant from the very outset, in fact. Large amounts of land may need to be cleared to make way for the course itself, which could have a big impact on local biodiversity and ecosystems, as well as nearby waterways.
And, of course, lots of water and pesticides are necessary to keep the grass green and in good condition – something that is sure to be hitting headlines increasingly in the near future, since many golf courses can be found in places like California and Arizona, where water shortages are now commonplace.
In Utah, meanwhile, there are around 30 golf courses to be found in Salt Lake County – and these use approximately nine million gallons of water each day… despite the fact that the region is facing its worst drought in decades.
It seems that all may not be lost where golf in particular is concerned, however. In Australia – a country well used to dealing with wildfires and dry conditions on a regular basis – golf courses are learning to adapt to the changing situation, capturing water during heavy rain events to be used for course irrigation and to extinguish fires as and when they happen.
And this is perhaps something we all need to start turning our minds towards – how we can adapt and evolve to the changing situation. Mitigating the risks of climate change is a must, of course, but it is also now necessary to consider how we can reduce our vulnerabilities to issues like extreme weather events, sea level encroachment, food security and so on.
Where water is concerned, there’s a lot that businesses can do to reduce their reliance on mains water supplies and safeguard these precious resources for future generations. If you want a water audit survey carried out across your site to help you see how and where you’re using water, get in touch with the SwitchWaterSupplier.com team today.