SOME OF THE NATION’S most high profile athletes are calling for greater climate action following the release of a new Climate Council report which finds Australia’s summer of sport is under threat from climate change.
Vice Captain of the Australian cricket team, Pat Cummins; swimmer and Olympic Gold Medal winner, Bronte Campbell; former Wallabies captain, David Pocock; surfer Adrian Buchan; former Australian netballer, Amy Steel; and AFLW Collingwood player, Sharni Layton are among those demanding greater climate action.
“Like all Aussies, I was devastated to see the impact of the [2019/2020] bushfires and the multiple coral bleachings on the Great Barrier Reef,” said Pat Cummins.
“I’m used to competing in a battle between bat and ball. The battle for climate change is, of course, a lot more important than just a game of cricket,” he said.
The new Climate Council report, “Game, Set, Match: Calling Time on Climate Inaction” finds that by 2040, heatwaves in Sydney and Melbourne could reach highs of 50°C, threatening the viability of summer sport as it is currently played.
“If global emissions continue to increase, Australian sports will have to make significant changes, such as playing summer games in the evening or switching schedules to spring and autumn,” said the Climate Council’s head of research and lead author, Dr Martin Rice.
Pat Cummins is concerned about the threat that climate change poses to both professional and community sport.
“We’ve seen athletes forced out of their events due to extreme heat and fire, and community cricket clubs forced to end their seasons early,” he said.
“Australia punches above its weight in sport, winning gold and topping podiums, but we’re falling behind on climate action,” said former Wallabies captain, David Pocock who wrote the foreword to the Climate Council report.
“We don’t have a credible climate policy. We could easily be a leader in clean technology, but our federal government is clinging to and subsidising fossil fuels, like coal and gas,” said Pocock.
REPORT KEY FINDINGS
- Many athletes and spectators have fallen ill following exposure to extreme heat in recent years. Temperatures at the Australian Open Tennis in Melbourne have repeatedly hit +40°C with games suspended and players taken to hospital. In January 2018, at the Sydney Ashes Test, England’s captain Joe Root was hospitalised as air temperature hit 41.9°C.
- Climate change is driving longer and more intense bushfire seasons, exposing athletes and spectators to dangerous air pollution, for which professional players are a particularly sensitive group.
- Australian sport is worth $50 billion to the economy and employs over 220,000 people, but governments are ill prepared for escalating climate risks.
Amy Steel played professional netball for 10 years, but her career ended in 2016 when she suffered heat stroke while playing indoors during a national pre-season tournament.
“I was physically the fittest and strongest I had ever been. I never could have imagined this would be the last game I’d play, that it would end my netball career,” she said.
“That incident left me with lifelong health issues, including chronic inflammation and fatigue. If this could happen to me – an elite athlete – then what are the risks for community sporting clubs, as climate change makes heatwaves longer, hotter and more frequent?”
Ace Buchan began surfing when he was five years old and has competed on the World Surf League professional tour for the past 15 years.
“Greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of coal, oil and gas are altering the coastline we call home. Not only are regular wind and wave patterns being disturbed, but we are bearing witness to devastating coastal erosion, rising sea levels and bleaching and destruction of the reefs that we surf and swim over,” he said.
Swimmer and Olympic gold medalist, Bronte Campbell said her home state of Queensland was especially vulnerable to climate change.
“Queensland is on the frontline of climate change impacts. But, like [our state does in] sport, we can also lead the charge with solutions like renewable energy,’ she said.
“That is why I am coming together now with my fellow athletes, to use my platform, beyond the pool, to inspire and push for climate action,” she said.
“Sporting clubs and codes can rapidly cut their own greenhouse gas emissions by changing the way they build venues, power events, travel and by cutting waste,” said Dr Rice.
“Professional and community sports can also switch sponsorship from fossil fuel-backed companies to ones that invest in climate solutions,” he said.