GSB circles the globe for our TGIF News & Notes column:
A group of Australia’s highest-profile athletes are calling for greater climate action following the release of a new report which finds the country’s summer sports are under threat from climate change.
In the USA, Roush Fenway announced it had become NASCAR’s first carbon neutral racing team.
And in Germany, this week’s Nordic (cross country, ski jumping) Ski Championships have been impacted by unseasonably warm weather.
AUSSIE ATHLETES ANGLE FOR ACTION ON CLIMATE
Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison has resisted setting long-term emissions reductions targets, settling for the vague non-promise that the country would reach net-zero sometime “in the second half of the century”. This puts the country behind every member of the G-7¹ and the European Union, all of which have committed to reaching net-zero by 2050. Even China, easily the world’s biggest emitter, promises to attain that goal by 2060.
Thankfully, a group of Australia’s top athletes are stepping up while the federal government, heavily supported by the fossil fuel industry, willingly sits on the bench.
Vice captain of the Australian cricket team, Pat Cummins; swimmer and Olympic Gold Medal winner, Bronte Campbell; former Wallabies (Australia’s national rugby union team) captain, David Pocock; surfer Adrian Buchan; former Australian netballer and EcoAthletes Champion, Amy Steel; and AFLW (Aussie Rules Football) Collingwood player, Sharni Layton are among those stepping into the breach by demanding greater climate action.
Their activism comes on the heels of the release of “Game, Set, Match: Calling Time on Climate Inaction,” a new report from Australia’s Climate Council which lays out the serious threat climate change poses to the country’s summer sports. It found that:
- By 2040, summer heatwaves in Sydney and Melbourne could reach highs of 50°C (122°F), threatening the viability of virtually all outdoor sports
- No athlete, whether professional or amateur, or fan is immune to the country’s increasingly hot summers, which are a significant health hazard. Climate change is driving longer and more intense bushfire seasons, exposing athletes and fans to noxious air pollution
- Australian sports contributes $AUS50 billion to the economy. Despite its significance, the Federal Government’s first national sports plan did not discuss or tackle the implications of climate change on sport. Climate disruption is a growing cost for sport in Australia, including infrastructure maintenance and rising insurance premiums.
“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,” said the Climate Council’s head of research and lead author, Dr Martin Rice.
Campbell, who won gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics in the 4 x 100 freestyle relay, said her home state of Queensland was especially vulnerable to climate change.
“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,” she asserted. “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.”
Steel, who played professional netball² for 10 years, saw her career cut short 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,” recalled the indefatigable Steel who later became a climate risk analyst. “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?”
“Australia punches above its weight in sport, winning gold and topping podiums, but we’re falling behind on climate action,” said Pocock who wrote the foreword to the Climate Council report. “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 subsidizing fossil fuels, like coal and gas.”
Some of Australia’s most decorated athletes make a stand for climate action in this 2 minute 36 second video
GSB’s Take: There certainly is strength in numbers when athletes band together to offer their support behind an important social issue. The world saw this principle in action last summer when many WNBA and NBA players lent their collective voices in support of the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the murders by police of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and too many others.
Hopefully, this compelling joint statement by a group of Australia’s top swimmers, surfers and more will be the beginning of a similar athletes’ movement in support of climate action.
ROUSH FENWAY BECOMES NASCAR’S FIRST CARBON NEUTRAL TEAM
Roush Fenway Racing is the first NASCAR team to achieve carbon neutrality, verified by an independent third party for its entire organization — including top drivers Ryan Newman and Chris Buescher.
They earned NASCAR’s carbon neutral checkered flag by:
- Transitioning to renewable energy wherever possible, including at its Ford Performance supported shop in Concord, North Carolina
- Reducing its single-use plastic consumption
- Increasing recycling and composting
But it was a push by sponsor Castrol that nudged Roush Fenway across the carbon neutrality finish line — the official lubricant provider conditioned its renewal for the 2021 season on Roush Fenway dramatically reducing its carbon footprint.
“Roush has always prided itself on taking environmentally friendly steps and we’ve done a number of things here with recycling, with rainwater collection, with solar panels and things of that nature, but it’s really been a series of one-off projects,” Newmark told Autoweek Magazine on February 17. “Quite candidly, it wasn’t a holistic view towards sustainability. [Castrol] approached us and started to encourage us, educate us and push us to thinking about becoming a carbon neutral organization. Frankly, it wasn’t something I was familiar with. We didn’t have the expertise here about it, but they brought it to our attention and then it became part of our agreement with Castrol.”
GSB’s Take: Becoming the first carbon neutral NASCAR team is a positive step by Roush Fenway and Castrol. This will turn out to be a much bigger step if NASCAR, Roush Fenway and Castrol heavily promote the benefits of carbon neutrality to race fans. But given the urgency of the climate crisis — GSB readers are likely well aware that the 2018 UN IPCC report said humanity has to decarbonize by 45 percent by 2030 if we are to avoid the most calamitous impacts of climate change — it is incumbent on NASCAR and its teams to push hard to launch an EV stock car circuit…yesterday, with the goal of eventually replacing its internal combustion engine version.
SLUSHY SNOW IMPACTS WORLD NORDIC SKI CHAMPIONSHIPS IN GERMANY
Schedules for the first two days of the 2021 World Nordic Ski Championships in Oberstdorf, Germany were thrown into chaos thanks to temperatures that reached an unseasonable 10°C (50°F).
“We have to squat in a knee-thick snow soup and it’s not skiing,” said two-time world champion Emil Iversen from Norway.
Wednesday’s qualifiers were moved from a noon start time to 9 AM; Thursday’s sprint trials got underway at 10 PM, long after the original 1:45 PM start time. This played havoc with TV schedules, which likely unnerved event organizers since broadcast revenues are playing an outsized role during these spectator-less championships.
There is good news on the horizon as temperatures are supposed to dip over the weekend. But the very strong likelihood is that these types of disruptions to snow sports events will become more commonplace as climate change continues to push temperatures ever higher.
¹ The G-7 is comprised of Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan and the United States
² Netball is similar to basketball in that the object is to put the ball in the basket. Some of the key differences: netball does not have backboards, there is no dribbling, the ball must be passed in 3 seconds.
Photo at top: Competitors at the 2021 Nordic World Championships in Germany wear shorts on a balmy 10°C/50°F day (Photo credit: Veriety/Finland)