Climate Change and the Threat to UK and International Sport

The more obvious signs of climate change are happening thousands of miles from where we live: the deforestation in the...

The more obvious signs of climate change are happening thousands of miles from where we live: the deforestation in the Amazon and the melting permafrost in Siberia, for example.

Australia’s bushfires happened in another time zone.

Whilst many of us are horrified, saddened or angry to see the devastation, it can feel like someone else’s problem.

We can empathise but we often can’t imagine that something like that could happen here.

That could be about to change.

It’s hard to imagine what the melting of icecaps will mean for someone in Birmingham but what about when our favourite sporting events become affected?

Rain Affects Play

You’d have been hard-pressed in 2019 to imagine a scenario where thousands of global sporting events and fixtures were cancelled.

COVID-19 has seen the 2020 Tokyo Olympics postponed along with the European football championships, and Wimbledon.

The disruption to the sporting calendar is unprecedented but it’s unlikely to end with COVID-19. We’re already seeing signs that the sports we love are under threat.

According to the BBC, by 2050 1 in 4 English football league clubs can expect to have their grounds flooded at least once a year. This disrupts fixtures and hurts a club’s income.

The article also points to the number of golf courses at risk from coastal erosion including the 450-year old Montrose course in Scotland which loses around 2-meters of course each year to the sea.

Reuters reported on a study released back in 2018, that said the UK’s proximity to the Atlantic what a part of the problem. Coastal golf courses are particularly at risk because of ‘storm surges and a rise in sea levels, caused by a melt of ice from Greenland to the Himalayas’.

Cricket stands to be one of the sports hardest hit by climate change. Rain-affected matches have doubled since 2011 and since 2000, 27% of matches have seen reduced overs played. Speaking to The Cricketeer back in 2018, Dan Cherry, said:

"It’s simple: the less cricket we play at every level the fewer people will watch it, the less they will come to the ground and pay to enter, the less chance there is for young people to be inspired to take up the game."

And it’s not just rain. A Japanese typhoon in 2019 took out some of the Rugby World Cup Fixtures. Australian bushfires at the start of 2020 affected the Australian Open. The Scottish ski industry could collapse within 50-years because of a lack of snow.

No Snow, No Go

Research by the University of Waterloo found that only 8 previous hosts of the Winter Olympics would be able to host the games again. Time Magazine adds that before the 1960s the average temperature during the Olympics had risen from around 33 degrees Fahrenheit to 46 degrees Fahrenheit.

With global temperatures rising, we’ll likely see outdoor sports being played indoors. Stadiums may have to be designed in a way that they’re kept at temperature-controlled levels.

Olympic hosts may be chosen more on the average temperature of their nominated cities than by anything else.

Whilst cricket in England and Wales may be rained off more frequently, in places like India and Australia, the higher temperatures may pose a threat to players’ lives. The BBC adds ‘venues in Adelaide and Perth will see a 60% increase in days with temperatures over 40C over the next decade’.

Climate Change Affects Exercise

You don’t have to be an athlete or a professional sports fan to feel the effect of climate change on fitness.

If you exercise regularly, then you may also find your favourite activities affected by climate change. Bustle reported that Nike has teamed up with Climate Change Lab to explore how climate change is affecting fitness and exercise.

They found that temperature plays a key role in determining whether marathon runners clock their fastest times: their speed reduces when the outdoor temperature rises.

It’s as true for amateur runners as much as the professionals: you won’t be able to smash those personal bests when the mercury is so high. Warmer temperatures also mean you have a smaller timeframe in which to workout. At the moment, we’re told to avoid being out during the hottest part of the day (often 12 pm until 3pm), but that could have to be extended. This may make it more difficult to exercise outdoors if you have a busy day job.

It’s not just those of us inside, either. In the UK, we’re not as well prepared for extreme heat. Our buildings are designed to keep the warm air inside. Your gym may not be able to install the level of air conditioning required to keep you cool during your workout. An increase in operating costs may be reflected in your membership, too.

One solution for gym owners would be installing clean-energy generating gym equipment so that human-power could provide free electricity. This could help offset energy costs.

Outdoor runners, walkers and cyclists will also find that they’re inhaling more polluted air than may be safe. Air quality levels in urban areas are declining largely due to traffic.

Hot weather can put a real strain on the human body. It makes those with health conditions vulnerable but it can also mean that fit and healthy people can develop heat-related health issues. There have been several cases of even high-profile athletes dying from complications related to heatstroke.

We also have to remember that most gyms are in urban areas. Urban areas suffer from urban heat island effect where the building materials and infrastructure create literal hot spots which could be up to 5 degrees hotter than the surrounding areas.

Climate change is going to affect all aspects of our lives, including how we watch and participate in sports, and how we exercise. It's why Energym has designed and developed clean energy generating indoor bikes so gyms can harness the power of their members. 


indoor cyclists hands up at an event

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.


Solutions for every setting