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Climate Change Threatens Future of Sport in Australia

Climate Change Threatens Future of Sport in Australia

Games have been suspended and cut short at the Australian Open, and thousands of spectators and players treated for heat exhaustion. Source: Creative Commons

Australia’s summer of sport is under threat.

In a recent interview on the Doctors for the Environment Podcast, Dr Martin Rice from The Climate Council laid out how climate change is threatening almost every aspect of sport in Australia.

“Here in Australia sport is an institution, millions of Australians play or watch sport every weekend,” said Dr Rice.

However, rising temperatures and increasingly frequent extreme weather events are casting doubt over the future of many of our much-loved sporting codes.

Rising temperatures are making summer sports less viable—particularly during heatwaves.

More frequent periods of high rainfall and more severe droughts and dry spells are making outdoor fields harder to play on.

As bushfires become more frequent and severe, the associated air pollution is taking its toll on sport as well.

“The Australian Open had to reduce play during Black Summer because the air pollution was some of the worst in the world,” said Dr Rice. 

In addition to cancelling more events, climate change also puts the health of athletes and spectators at risk as well.

Dr Rice points to a sharp rise in community sport injuries during the most recent drought, which is attributable to harder playing surfaces.

Amy Steele, a former professional netballer, had to quit her sporting career for good after suffering from extreme heat exposure.

“Looking at climate projections, we could see Melbourne and Sydney having 50-degree summer days, you can’t play sport in that, it’s game over. So that’s why we’re calling time on climate inaction.”

You can read The Climate Council’s full report on climate change and sport here, and catch up on the Doctors for the Environment Podcast here—or wherever you get your podcasts.