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Climate change set to impact Australia’s summer sporting calendar
The Climate Council has warned that extreme weather events linked to climate change has the potential to disrupt Australia’s summer sports obsession at elite and grassroots level.
Released today, the Climate Council’s Weather Gone Wild report says climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of events such as extreme heat, intense rainfall, droughts, tropical cyclones and bushfires.
It comes amid unprecedented flooding in north Queensland and out of control bushfires in Tasmania.
The report advised that Australia had its third warmest year on record in 2018 with the mean temperature rising by 1.14C and noted that parts of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and eastern South Australia were affected by drought with annual rainfall 11% below average.
It paints a snapshot of Australia’s extreme weather events in 2018 such as Cyclone Marcus’s landfall over the Northern Territory in March - which was the strongest to hit Darwin since cyclone Tracey in 1974. It also covers December’s severe storms in Sydney and on the NSW Central Coast that brought golf ball-sized hail and were the most expensive event for Australia’s insurance companies in 2018.
The Council’s Lesley Hughes said Australia’s beloved summer sports calendar could face potential disruptions in the future.
Hughes, Professor of Biological Science and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Macquarie University advised “I do think that as climate change continues to bite over the next few decades, sporting bodies are going to have to look at changing the timing of events that are commonly held in summer.
“It’s not just the big international events, it’s kids’ sporting events as well.”
Temperature records were broken around the globe in 2018. January was New Zealand’s hottest month on record, and 3.1C above the national average from 1981-2010. Europe had its hottest April in 2018 since records began in 1910. The US experienced its hottest May since record-keeping began in 1895 but more recently has been in the grip of the polar vortex.
Professor Hughes said that during the last drought community ovals and sports grounds became so dry they were deemed too dangerous for children to play on.
The Australian Open brought in a new extreme heat policy in 2019 following complaints in previous years about player welfare. Matches have been called off and the roof has been closed because of high temperatures.
Professor Hughes said Australians would have to make dramatic changes to working as well as sporting activity, stating “you can’t really work safely outside if it’s 47C.”
The report also suggested that state governments will have to increase resources to firefighting services. Previously some states have shared firefighting equipment with places like California because the seasons were different but now they are overlapping.
Professor Hughes added “the really expensive water-dumping aircraft are leased in the northern hemisphere during one season and the southern hemisphere during the other season.
“Now there’s quite a lot of competition to get those aircraft.”
She also pointed to Tasmania’s hottest and driest January ever: 2.5C above average, concluding “you’ve got massive destruction of commercial forests in Tasmania, huge health impacts of smoke, really significant stress on communities."
21st January 2019 - Sports Environment Alliance looks to improve facilities’ sustainability
29th December 2018 - New Australian Open extreme heat policy to allow 10-minute breaks in men’s matches
26th April 2018 - WTTC and UN Climate Change in new partnership to tackle global warming
10th February 2018 - Queensland tourism operators committed to tackling climate change issues
9th February 2018 - Climate change threatening Australian tourism
6th August 2017 - Alpine resorts invest in snowmaking to reduce impact of climate change
19th November 2016 - Central Melbourne’s trees need to adapt to climate change
1st February 2015 - Report suggests elite and grassroots sport at risk from climate change
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