A group of leading Australian athletes is calling for greater action on climate change following the release of a Climate Council report saying Australia’s summer sports could be wiped out within 20 years.
The Climate Council report, “Game, Set, Match: Calling Time on Climate Inaction” says temperatures could reach 50 degrees Celsius in Sydney and Melbourne by 2040, putting the sustainability and safety of summer sporting events in grave danger.
“If global emissions continue to increase, Australian sports will have to make significant changes, such as playing summer games at night or changing schedules to spring and fall,” said Dr Martin Rice, head of research and lead author of the Climate Council.
Paceman Australia and world number 1 bowler Pat Cummins are no stranger to playing in hot conditions at home. But in the summer of 2019/20, Cummins was forced into the middle of the smoke from the wildfires that lingered in Sydney for weeks, and he realized the need for urgent action.
“Like all Australians, I am devastated to see the impact of this [2019/2020] wildfires and some coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef, “said Cummins.
“I am used to competing in the fight between bat and ball. The battle for climate change is, of course, much more important than just the game of cricket … we have seen athletes forced out of their events due to extreme heat and fire, and community cricket clubs forced to end their season early. “
Joining Cummins in the call for greater action is long-time environmental fighter and former Wallabies rower David Pocock.
Pocock in 2014 famously tied herself to the mining machine in protest in the NSW country and she has continued to push the case for action on climate change since retiring from rugby, most recently appearing on the BBC podcast Emergency on Planet Sport.
“Australia is overweight in sport, winning gold and top podiums, but we are lagging behind in climate action,” said Pocock.
“We don’t have a credible climate policy. We could easily be leaders in clean technology, but our federal government is sticking with it and subsidizing fossil fuels, like coal and gas.”
Key findings from the report include: the fact that athletes and spectators have fallen ill after exposure to extreme heat in recent years, including events such as the Australian Open series and the Ashes; climate change is driving longer and more intense seasons of wildfires, exposing athletes and spectators to dangerous air pollution; Australian sports are worth the $[AU]50 billion for the economy and employing more than 220,000 people, but the government is not ready to increase climate risk.
Netball professional Amy Steel, whose career ended after the heatstroke, said all levels of the sport were at risk unless urgent action was taken to fight climate change.
“Physically I am the strongest and strongest I have ever experienced. I never imagined this would be the last game I would play, that it would end my netball career,” he said.
“The incident left me with lifelong health problems, including chronic inflammation and fatigue. If this could happen to me – an elite athlete – then what are the risks to community sports clubs, because climate change is making heat waves longer, hotter and longer. often?”