Australian sport feels the heat as global temperatures rise Media Release

Jan 31, 2015 - 12:05am

Heat policies, venue resilience and climate action will need to dramatically improve to protect the health of sports people, both at elite and community level, The Climate Institute concludes today in a new report on sport and climate impacts.

“Climate change and extreme weather events threatens the viability of much of our sport as it’s currently played, either in the back yard, at local grounds, or in professional tournaments. Football, cricket, tennis, skiing and more are struggling to adapt to, or prepare for, the impacts of climate change,” said John Connor, CEO of The Climate Institute.

“Climate change is putting our weather on steroids. With greater warming, more extreme heat, changes in rainfall and more intense storms, there are questions about just how far we can push players in elite and local sport. Questions also grow about whether the way some of our sport is played, or watched, is safe or sustainable.”

“Elite venues are improving resilience but local clubs and facilities, the lifeblood of Australian sport, are struggling. As climate extremes multiply, sports will need to learn from policies evolving in other outdoor industries.”

With an introduction from former AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou, Sport and Climate Impacts: How much heat can sport  handle? analyses the vulnerability amongst sports like AFL, tennis, cricket and cycling as well as winter snow sports.

Part of The Climate Institute’s ongoing research into climate risk and resilience, this report will form the basis of ongoing discussions in the sporting world, including with the newly formed Sports Environment Alliance, chaired by former International Cricket Council CEO Malcolm Speed.

Key findings include:

  • 2014 was the world’s hottest year on record. In Australia, the frequency of extremely hot days has already doubled since 1960 with days over 35°C set to rise significantly. Rainfall patterns are changing with less rainfall in winter and spring across Southern Australia with intense rainfall events increasing nationwide.
  • Heat  policies across sports are beginning to evolve but many are unclear and inconsistently applied. Heat  thresholds range from 34°C to 41°C. In 2014, major international tennis and cycling competitions were prime  examples of the impact of heat on players and spectators, and the uncertainty around application of heat policies. 
  • Drought can devastate community sport. Dried up, cracked surfaces during the Millennium Drought in 2007, for  instance, saw three-quarters of AFL leagues in metro and rural Victoria delay or cancel their season. Upkeep of  community grounds rose, and ticket sales dropped. 
  • Sport brings significant revenues to the Australian economy, to the tune of $13 billion a year. But sporting events  impacted by severe weather events are seeing significant drops in attendance and revenue. The 2014 Australian  Open saw a loss of 12-15,000 spectators per day during particularly hot days. 
  • Nine  out of the 16 world cities that have hosted the Winter Olympics in the 20th century could not again guarantee  proper snow conditions by the end of the 21st century. In Australia’s mountains, snow fall has diminished by more  than a third in the last decade alone. Other studies predict our slows could be mostly bare of snow by 2050.
  • Ma jor sport venues are improving resilience at significant cost. New stadiums and upgrades now often include  retractable roofs, synthetic surfaces, raised flooring and flood proofing, and equipment, and energy efficiencies to  compensate for increased cooling costs. Many if not all these changes are beyond local facilities.

“To protect what we can of the health of our sports, major changes will be needed in facilities, playing policies and climate action,” said Connor.

The full report, infographics, and interviews and supporting statements by athletes and administrators can be found at www.climateinstitute.org.au/sport-and-climate.html.

For more information  

John Connor, CEO, 02 8239 6299

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