Climate Change and the Threat to UK and International Sport

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 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.  

May 2020 Broke Global Temperature Records

Last month was the hottest May on record.

2020 was already a hot mess but this is getting ridiculous.

Few will complain about glorious sunshine during the UK’s lockdown but these latest global record-breaking temperatures remind of us the other big challenge we’re facing: climate change.

According to BBC Science Focus website, the EU’s global climate change monitor reported last month as being 0.7 degrees Celsius warmer than average.

2020 already seems like it’s been twelve-months too long, but it was only a few months ago, back in February, that England and Wales recorded record levels of rainfall and widespread flooding.

There’s obviously a natural deviation in temperatures and weather patterns but it does seem like we’re breaking more weather records each year.

COVID-19 is a worrying reminder of how vulnerable we all are to global challenges. Many climate scientists believe the level of threat and disruption seen during this pandemic could be a taste of things to come unless more is done to combat climate change.

How Sunny was May 2020 in the UK?

According to the MET Office, it was the driest May on record for England and the second driest May for Wales with both receiving only 17% of the average rainfall for the month.

May was also the sunniest month on record.  There were 626 hours of bright sunshine recorded beating the previous record set in 1948 by more than 70 hours. 

Interestingly, only three UK summers have recorded more hours of bright sunshine than May 2020.

How Hot was the Rest of the World in May 2020?

Record levels of warmth were noted in the Caribbean Sea, Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean as well as in Africa, Western Europe, Central America and in northern South America, according to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the US.

Some areas of the world did record cooler temperatures but it wasn’t enough to offset the increase elsewhere.

 It’s what happening in Siberia that’s most concerning.

Surface temperatures in Siberia were up by 10 degrees Celsius.

Siberia has already recorded a far warmer-than-average winter but it’s astonishing to see how one of the coldest regions on Earth is heating up.  Khatanga in the Arctic circle has an average temperature of 0 degrees Celsius for last month, but this year it recorded 25 degrees Celsius on May 12th which is double the previous record.

Science Focus reports that the world is nearly 1 degree warmer than the 20th century’s average temperature.

What’s causing the higher temperatures?

In the UK, it’s been largely due to the Jetstream. The Carbon Brief describes it as a core of strong winds blowing from west to east around five-to-seven miles above the Earth’s surface. In May, it ‘buckled’ allowing one area of high pressure after another to dominate UK weather.

Globally, it’s hard to imagine how climate change isn’t responsible for the record-breaking temperatures across the world.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has reported above average temperatures for 425 months straight.

NASA scientist Gavin Schmidt told the USA Today:

“It’s no surprise that records keep getting broken because we know that fossil-fuel emissions are driving the long-term trends and we are still adding to atmospheric CO2.’

Equally, in an article published on The Guardian website said: “Martin Stendel, of the Danish Meteorological Institute, said the abnormal May temperatures seen in north-west Siberia would be likely to happen just once in 100,000 years without human-caused global heating”.

Human activity is driving temperature changes in our planet.  We all need to think about what we can do to reduce that impact.

Much of the work has to be done at an international level: governments, policy makers, global organisations and multi-national companies, for example, but there are things individuals and small businesses can do to reduce their carbon footprint.

For example, Energym has developed clean-energy generating gym equipment that runs off human power.

Why is the dry weather bad for the UK?

The biggest impact is in farming. 

A lack of rain means moisture levels in the soil are low which will impact cereal crops.  Lower water levels in reservoirs could also mean that without effective management there will be water shortages in the summer months.

What about in other parts of the world?

We already know how deadly heat can be in urban areas where building materials, population density and poverty often mean higher mortality rates in the summer months. In the UK, we know that more people die in road accidents during the warmer weather, but in parts of the US ‘heat kills more people than any other natural disaster.’

The temperature increase in Siberia is especially concerning because the region is home to the world largest area of perma-frost and is already having an impact on local infrastructure, agriculture and homes.

A recent oil spill caused by the warmer weather is an environmental emergency in the region and a severe threat to the local eco-systems.

What does this mean for the rest of 2020?

Different national weather agencies have different predictions.

Globally, 2020 is likely to rank in the top-10 hottest years with many believing it will secure a spot in the top-5.

3 Uncomfortable Facts about Climate Change in the UK

3 Uncomfortable Facts about Climate Change in the UK

Greta Thunberg, David Attenborough, Australian bushfires, MET Office figures announcing the last 10 years as the ‘warmest decade on record’…

You can’t switch on the television or the radio at the moment without being confronted by news reports on global warming, calls for environmental action or extreme weather despair.

In 2019, the UK declared a climate emergency but how is global warming affecting us in Britain and what are some of the facts about climate change in the UK?

The UK is Getting Warmer

The UK’s 9 warmest years have all been recorded since 2002.

MET Office figures dating back to 1884 show that the UK is getting warmer.

Many of us will have wished for long hot British summers but increasing temperatures across the country are set to have a detrimental effect on many of the things that we’ve come to rely on: infrastructure, commerce, health services and food production to name but a few.

During June and July’s heatwave in 2018, almost 700 more deaths were recorded than average. It’s not just the elderly that are vulnerable but those with heart and kidney problems, too.

Here’s another fun fact for you: you’re more likely to have a car accident in the warmer months.

By 2100 it’s expected that heatwaves could be as long as 50 days and top 40 degrees Celsius.

Warmer summers in the UK might have us thinking of ice creams on the sea front or BBQ’s in the back garden but what about the millions living and working in urban areas?

Urban heat island effect happens in built-up areas and is when the surface in urban areas – pavements, roads, roofs, building etc – absorb more heat than the natural ground covering you find in less developed areas in t grass, plants, soil and trees, for example.

British buildings are far better at keeping heat in than letting it out. Increased temperatures will make living, working and commuting in urban areas almost unbearable.

The UK’s Fast Fashion Habit is Killing the Planet

The UK is the biggest European consumer of what’s known as ‘fast fashion’.

We all know what fast food means but what does fast fashion mean?

Fast fashion is mass-produced inexpensive clothing designed and made as quickly and as regularly as possibly in order to encourage consumers to buy new pieces. The UK high street has been selling affordable clothing to customers for decades but fast fashion has a much quicker turnaround with seasonal collections frequently replaced with something new.

But what does it have to do with climate change in the UK?

The UK is the biggest consumer of fast fashion in Europe.

More than two tons of clothing are bought each minute in the UK.

According to Green Peace, each one of us buys 26.7kgs garments a year which is 10kgs more than countries like Germany and Sweden.

Here’s something that might surprise you: The textile industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than the shipping and aviation industries combined”.


The report by Oxfam also found that:  The emissions from all the new clothes bought in the UK each month are greater than those from flying a plane around the world 900 times.

What? What? What?

It’s far easier to imagine how airlines contribute to climate change but that new t-shirt in your wardrobe?  What about all the ones you’ve never worn?

What about all the outfits you’re binning? 11 million items end up in landfill each week.

Warm Waters in the UK

The UK’s waters are now 1 degree warmer than they were a century ago. Good news for skinny dippers but not so good for fishing, marine life or seabirds.

Cod could disappear from UK waters within 30 years and be replaced by tuna and anchovies.

One study, whose results were reported in The Telegraph, said that by 2050 the net value of the UK’s fishing industry could drop 10%.

A major publication from the Marine Climate Change Impact Partnership  (MCCIP) lays out some of the problems the UK will face given its warming waters. Along with the expected reduction of certain fish and bird species it suggests that increased coastal erosion poses a threat to cultural heritage sites.

It’s not just UK waters either. Global seas and oceans are warmer than they’ve ever been. According to Lijing Cheng, lead author on one report into sea temperatures:

“The amount of heat we have put in the world’s oceans in the past 25 years equals to 3.6 billion Hiroshima atom-bomb explosions,”

More than 90% of trapped greenhouse gases have been absorbed by the sea.

It’s an incredible but devastating example of what we’ve been doing to our sea water.

We’re already beginning to see the impact of climate change in the UK. Understanding that what we’re putting out into the environment and what we’re contributing with consumerism is the key to adopting new and less environmentally damaging ways of doing things.

At Energym, it’s at the heart of what we do: developing clean-energy technology to help gyms reduce their electricity bills and their carbon footprint. Click here to find out more about what we do.

Photo Credits: Greta Thunberg and Sir David Attenborough photographed for the Today programme

Why Businesses Have to Respond to Climate Change

Why Businesses Have to Respond to Climate Change

In 2014, Barack Obama – then US President – told the UN climate summit in New York

“We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it.”

We no longer have the luxury of ignoring the effects of global warming.  What’s been a political issue for decades is now having an impact on economies and industries.

How Flooding Affected Businesses in Thailand

A heavy monsoon in Thailand in 2011 saw the country’s highest rainfall in decades.

9 million people were affected by the extreme weather but it was the impact on businesses that really highlighted the vulnerability of global supply chains and industries.

  • Around 1,000 factories had to close in Thailand because of flooding.
  • Sony delayed the release of several products due to disruption at its Thai factories.
  • 3.5 million tonnes of rice were damaged by the flooding. Thailand is the world’s biggest exporter of rice.

The Science Nordic website explains that more than 800 industrial parks were affected which disrupted electronic and car component supplies.  Acer, Samsung, Lenovo, Apple, Toyota and Honda all reported interrupted production.

It’s easy for us sitting in our offices in the UK to feel separated from extreme weather on the other side of the world but in today’s global economy, where supply chains and transport routes can stretch tens of thousands of miles, the reverberations of something like flooding in Thailand can be felt in entirely unrelated industries.

Why Companies Need to Respond to Climate Change

McKinsey Analysis looked at 6 ways that climate change is a risk to business:

  • Physical: extreme weather can impact a business’s ability to operate its factories and manufacturing centres as well as affect supply chains.
  • Price Risks can impact the cost of not only raw materials but also insurance.
  • Product risk is when the item you’re selling is untenable or which has no profit. McKinsey uses the example of a ski resort unable to operate because it no longer has enough snow.
  • Rating risks can affect stakeholder interests
  • Regulation risk:  Governments and international bodies might introduce laws that make it harder for companies to operate.  Equally, they may reward competitors with incentives or subsidies.
  • Reputation risk can occur if the public believe business practices are unethical or are not in keeping an acceptable ethos.

We already know that younger generations are likely to pay more for a product from a company they believe to be ethical or eco-friendly.

Photo by Sarah Shaffer on Unsplash

How Can Companies Better React to Global Warming?

Climate change isn’t going away and neither are the challenges and threats it poses.  Ignorance isn’t bliss; it has the potential to damage or even destroy your company.

One of the first things any business should do is to look at its own carbon footprint.  Consider it an environmental audit. 

carbon footprint is the impact a business or individual has on the environment.

Businesses can be some of the biggest contributors.

The carbon footprint of a company could include: the number of computers left on inside a building overnight, the amount of food produce wasted each year, the amount of flights taken for business trips and even how much printer toner is used each week (and what happens to that cartridge when its empty).

Your carbon footprint will also include the amount of green house gas emissions you release into the environment. 

It could be difficult reading but without knowing how much your business is contributing to the climate crisis, you can’t do anything about it.

Reducing your carbon footprint could actually save your business money, too.  Energy bills can often be reduced simply by finding a better deal or by switching to cleaner energy sources.

For example, Energym develops devices that generate electricity from human power which will save gyms and fitness centres a huge amount.  Any unused energy goes back into the network – win-win for the environment and for business.

Businesses also need to become more resilient to changing weather patterns.

It’s important to be proactive rather than reactive. 

This isn’t always popular because up-front costs to mitigate potential threats can be a tough sell to the people holding the budget.  It’s easy to think of extreme weather as being isolated events unlikely to be repeated.  Unfortunately, this thinking only costs companies more money in the long-term.

In 2018, Zurich released a report urging companies to respond to the climate change threat rather than ignoring it.

It argued that adapting to climate change is cheaper than paying for the damage after a disaster.  Alison Martin, Group Chief Risk Officer and Member of the Executive Committee, uses the example of a flood defence programme initiated before there was a threat where every dollar spent on prevention saved five dollars on recovery efforts after flooding.

There’s a belief, too, that global collaboration is needed to make the biggest changes.

The RE 100 are well known companies who have all committed to going 100% carbon neutral.

Some of this may be motivated by a need for good PR but with climate change predicted to accelerate considerably over the coming decades, even a cynical PR strategy is something to be thankful for.  We know that younger people are more environmentally minded and that as consumers they’re happier to pay more for greener products and services. It could be a great marketing strategy for the future: attracting new customers by aligning your company to a greener strategy.

Your business could be affected by climate change.  Our entire country is likely to feel the effects of global warming more acutely over the coming decades, and it’s vital that you start preparing your company sooner rather than later.

Forewarned is forearmed, so they say.

The Social Impact of Climate Change in the UK

The Social Impact of Climate Change in the UK

The social impact of climate change in the UK isn’t as widely discussed as environmental or economic influences.

We all understand the role global warming plays in rising sea levels, bush fires and extreme heatwaves, but climate change will have an impact on people’s daily lives here in the UK, too.

Social impact refers to the physical and emotional wellbeing of the UK population: its mental and physical health, social deprivation, access to education, employment and opportunities as well as social care.

We know that temperatures are up and that our surrounding sea levels are rising. Everyone in the UK will experience the effects of climate change at some point in the near future (if they haven’t already), but some people are more likely to struggle with those effects than others.

Often, it’s the most vulnerable that are at risk: the elderly, the very young, those with chronic or life-threatening illnesses and those on low-incomes.

How Is Climate Change Affecting the UK?

In 2018, Michael Gove launched The UK Climate Projections (UKCP) which The Met Office describes as the ‘most detailed picture yet of UK’s future climate’.

  • Summer temperatures could be up to 5.4 °C hotter by 2070
  • Winters could be up to 4.2 °C warmer
  • The chance of a summer as hot as 2018 is around 50 % by 2050
  • Sea levels in London could rise by up to 1.15 metres by 2100
  • Average summer rainfall could decrease by up to 47 % by 2070, while there could be up to 35 % more precipitation in the winter. In fact, ‘extremely wet winters are 5 times more likely in the next century.’
  • We already know that the UK’s sea levels are rising by around 3mm per year. 
  • Further research shows that average UK temperatures have risen by 1 degree in the last century.  9 of the 10 hottest summers have all occurred since 2002.
Aerial image of British countryside on a hot hazy day
Photo by William Hook on Unsplash

Writing in The Independent, Kate Sambuck explains that the UK can expect longer lasting and more intense heatwaves and that by 2100 they could exceed 40 degrees Celsius and last as long as 50 days.

Rising sea levels are leading to increased rates of coastal erosion.
An increase in the number of heatwaves is also likely to lead to more regular wildfires.

The UK’s climate is changing, and quickly.

What are the Social Impacts of Climate Change in the UK?

Lord John Krebs, chair of the CCC’s adaptation sub-committee says,

“What we now think of as an extremely hot summer, where people are dying of heat stress and it is extremely uncomfortable in homes, hospitals and much of transport, that is likely to be a typical summer by the middle of the century and would be a cool summer in the 2080s,”

Taken from

This prediction is based on what the UK’s future could look like if the 2015 Paris Agreement on tackling climate change isn’t ‘fully delivered’.

Climate Change and the Impact on Health

The UK’s temperate climate has protected it from some of the nastier insect and animal borne disease that we see in Europe and beyond but warmer temperatures could bring mosquitoes to Britain with fears that malaria and the Zika virus could come, too. The Department of Health announced its spending £56 million to research the consequences of climate change on public health.

If dangerous insect borne diseases were to make their way to the UK, it would be additional strain on health services.  Again, the young and elderly would be at particular risk. writes that urban areas can be particularly problematic as they’re often located on low-lying areas or near to the ‘mouths of major rivers’ putting people at increased risk of rising sea levels and flooding.  Waterborne disease is a problem in flooded areas and so too is the destruction of property and food shortages.

The social and economic impacts of climate change often go together. If you can’t get to a job because the infrastructure is too badly damaged or if you’re struggling to afford rising food costs or if you have no electricity, then this affects your ability to support yourself and family, leading to increased poverty and then a higher vulnerability to the consequences of future climate change related problems.

Flooding in Coastal Areas

Coastal towns tend to have higher populations of elderly people and vagrants and rising sea levels make flooding, the destruction of property and the disruption of services more likely.  This could mean people’s ability to access healthcare or support. It could make travel more difficult leaving people isolated in rural or remote areas.

Coastal towns and villages often rely on tourism and visitors but this could be undermined by damage, disease or associations of danger.

Heat in Urban Areas

People living in urban areas are at risk of rising temperatures. 

Urban heat island effect is a term used to describe how the temperature is often higher in cities than in surrounding rural areas. Buildings and pavements ‘absorb, store and radiate heat’ which makes the environment hotter. Many office blocks and homes aren’t built to keep heat out (the UK has been far more concerned historically with keeping the heat in).

Working and living in cities like London, Birmingham or Manchester in extreme heat could become physically intolerable.  The NHS can expect more hospital admissions, too, but will also be facing the problem of keeping patients cool inside its hospitals and care facilities.

Movement of People and Goods

Flooding and extreme heat can cripple the infrastructure making it difficult to move people and goods around the country; this not only has a social impact – people trying to get to work, to get to schools or to visit friends and family or access public services – but there’s also an economic impact: running a business could be more difficult particularly if you’re relying on a UK supply chain.  Flooding can wash away roads and tracks.  Excessive snowfall and high winds can close airports.

The social impact of climate change shouldn’t be underestimated. Some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in society are likely to suffer first and suffer hardest.  

But climate change will make all of us vulnerable.

The UK is going to have to start living with the effects of climate change. The impact will be felt environmentally, politically, economically and socially.  It’s important that we work to lessen that impact both for ourselves, our businesses and for future generations.