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Climate Council releases new report on the affects of climate change on Australian Sport

Climate Council releases new report on the affects of climate change on Australian Sport
February 25, 2021

The Climate Council has released a new report, ‘Game, Set, Match: Calling Time on Climate Inaction’, which describes how climate change is affecting sport in Australia, and how sport can also be a powerful force for change.

The report highlights that while sport is a major part of Australian culture, Australia’s summer of sport is under threat from climate change. Driven largely by the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas), climate change is worsening extreme weather events and disrupting Australian sport.

Australia’s summer sports calendar, which includes Big Bash League (BBL) cricket, AFLW games, the Tour Down Under cycling race, the Australian Open tennis, A and W-League football and community sports is threatened by climate change.

The report states 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.

Climate Council Head of Research and lead author, Dr Martin Rice notes “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.

“No athlete, whether an elite professional or a community player, is immune to our increasingly hot summers, which are a health hazard for those playing and watching sport.”

The report finds that although Australian sport is worth $50 billion to the economy and employs over 220,000 people, governments are not adequately prepared for escalating climate risks.

Sport in Australia is identified as not only being affected by climate change but as a contributor to climate change. The report suggests that Australian Sport can be an integral part of the solution with athletes and other sporting leaders becoming powerful advocates for change, both within sport and outside of it, by using their star appeal to educate and influence others.

Dr Rice highlights “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.

“Professional and community sports can also switch sponsorship from fossil fuel-backed companies to ones that invest in climate solutions.”

Some of Australia’s most high-profile athletes have responded to the Climate Change Report’s call for greater climate action.

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.

Pat Cummins is concerned about the threat that climate change poses to both professional and community sport and notes “like all Aussies, I was devastated to see the impact of the (2019/20) bushfires and the multiple coral bleachings on the Great Barrier Reef.

“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.

“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.

Former Wallabies captain, David Pocock who wrote the foreword to the Climate Council report adds “Australia punches above its weight in sport, winning gold and topping podiums, but we’re falling behind on climate action.

“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.”

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.

“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. Buchan is aware of the effects of climate change on Australia’s coastlines and adds “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.”

Swimmer and Olympic gold medallist, Bronte Campbell said her home state of Queensland was especially vulnerable to climate change, concluding “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.

“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."

Click here to access the full Climate Council report Game, Set, Match: Calling Time on Climate Inaction compiled by Martin Rice, Ella Weisbrot, Simon Bradshaw, Will Steffen, Lesley Hughes, Hilary Bambrick, Kate Charlesworth and Nicki Hutley.

For further information on The Climate Council - Australia’s leading community-funded climate change communications organisation – go to 

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5th July 2020 - Former Socceroo pushes for 2023 Women’s World Cup to amplify climate change urgency

7th April 2020 - Reef tourism industry and conservationists demand climate action following release of new bleaching survey

28th February 2020 - Australian Marine Conservation Society calls for a Reef-safe climate policy

20th January 2020 - New report aims to prompt recognition of climate change threat to Australian Open

30th December 2019 - Research finds Australian cricket not ready for challenges of climate change

6th December 2019 - Tourism Report calls for more effective climate change strategies to save our oceans

4th December 2019 - World Travel and Tourism Council calls for Climate Neutrality by 2050

20th September 2019 - International sport bodies unite to combat climate change

10th September 2019 - New report highlights the impact of climate change on cricket

6th June 2019 - Tennis Australia commits to United Nations climate change action

6th February 2019 - Climate change set to impact Australia’s summer sporting calendar

6th August 2017 - Alpine resorts invest in snowmaking to reduce impact of climate change

5th August 2017 - Climate to increasingly impact Australia’s ski industry

10th January 2017 - CSIRO modelling predicts climate change could shrink Australia’s ski season by 80 days

1st February 2015 - Report suggests elite and grassroots sport at risk from climate change

7th June 2014 - Climate change threat to Australia’s snow industry

18th February 2014 - Climate change to impact ski resorts

16th January 2014 - Climate Council: Australian heatwaves more frequent, hotter and longer

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