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Role of sports in tackling climate change
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Footballers in action. Image: Unsplash
When discussing ways to combat climate change, the role of sports should garner greater consideration, writes Vitas Carosella.

In his 4 May article published on the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere (MAHB) website, Carosella said that climate change, and subsequent biodiversity collapse, were the greatest challenge humanity currently faces.

It is all-encompassing; impacting every facet of our everyday lives, from the food we can grow and eat, to the shelters we live in, to the business we can do.

Unlike other business sectors, sports have almost universal appeal regardless of culture, creed, gender, or ethnicity, he wrote.

"Sports also produce passionate fan groups and tight-knight communities that live for their favorite team or player. This gives sport organisations and athletes wide-ranging influential power over fans which can be used to encourage positive behavioral changes. Moreover, the digital age has helped the sports sector rapidly evolve into a financial superpower."

Carosella added sport viewership had skyrocketed, highlighting a Statista report that recorded the 2022 global sports of having generated over US$500 billion in revenue and that it is predicted to rise to US$700 billion by 2026.

"Encouragingly, we are starting to see the sports industry invest some of its financial and emotional capital in climate and energy initiatives. Major sports organisations like FIFA, the IOC, and the NBA have all signed the United Nations Sports for Climate Action Framework which commits signatories to halve sports-related emissions by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2040.

"The IOC has gone a step further with its ambitious Olympic Forest project. The project aims to plant 590,000 native trees across Mali and Senegal and forms part of the Great Green Wall project trying to green the edge of the Sahara Desert and prevent further desertification."

In stressing that sports must become a force for positive change, Carosella wrote sports have yet to capitalise on its position in the marketplace as a true force for positive change.

"In football, the world’s most popular sport, many of the large clubs are still sponsored by high-emissions airlines, cryptocurrencies, plastic producers, and large banks that invest heavily in fossil fuels. Moreover, most teams in all professional sports continue to travel by chartered jet to away games, and most sports organizations are still seeking to expand, playing more games on more continents for more money.

"Historian and author David Goldblatt estimates that sports are responsible for 300-350 million tCO2e per year," he wrote.

Carosella added that sports’ influence has the opportunity to create real change.

"Transparency about goals, mistakes that have been made, and flaws within the business will help garner further support from fans. There is an understanding that working in an environmentally friendly manner on a large scale can at times be difficult, but communicating mistakes and adjustments to past approaches will earn trust and eat away at potential greenwashing.

"Alongside the powerful initiatives that are already taking place in the sports industry, these adjustments could help propel sports forward in the fight against climate change. Loyal fans will likely follow suit, adopting the practices of their on-field heroes and spreading a more positive culture of environmental awareness and practice," he wrote.

To read the full article, click here.

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