Politics + Green-Sports

The Intersection of Green & Sports & Politics


Executives from the major US professional sports leagues met with the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change, made up of Senators and members of the House of Representatives (hence, bicameral).  The task force’s goal is to “focus congressional and public attention on climate change and to develop effective policy responses to this urgent challenge.”  

Seems as though some members of Congress (at least the Democrats in Congress–because there are no Republicans on the task force–more on that later) think they can learn something about how to deal with climate change from the professional sports leagues.


The GreenSportsBlog was started back in May with the notion that those fighting the climate change fight could learn some valuable lessons from the sports world. It turns out that at least some members of Congress understand the power of the Green & Sports intersection and, yesterday, set about learning some of those lessons.

The Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change, led by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), met with representatives from the NBA, WNBA, NHL, NFL, MLB, and the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) in a closed-door meeting to discuss the effects of climate change on these organizations and the work they are doing to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  Letters from the NBA, NHL, NFL and MLB to the Task Force demonstrate the tangible steps the leagues are taking to green their sports:

  • An impressive number of new stadiums and arenas are LEED certified, even more feature on-site solar and wind generation.
  • MLB and the NHL, working with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR program and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), have developed and implemented online tools that enables all of the clubs in each sport to track and analyze data specific to waste output, energy usage and water consumption.  The NBA is on track to employ a similar program.  The goals are, through sharing of best practices, to change behavior on the part of facilities managers, gain an awareness of resource usage, and to reduce environmental impact.
  • The NFL focuses its efforts on greening its premier, highest visibility events, most notably the Super Bowl.  From planting trees in the host city to offsetting the carbon associated with the Super Bowl, from sending unserved food to homeless shelters to recycling office supplies, the NFL uses its showcase event to promote green behavior.


Solar in KC
Solar panels beyond the left field bleachers at Kaufmann Stadium, Kansas City, MO (Photo Credit: Kansas City Royals)


In my view, the NBA and NHL letters to the Task Force were far more valuable than those of the NFL and MLB in that they went beyond talking about what they’re doing to make recommendations about actions the federal government can take under current law to deal more aggressively with climate change.

  • The NBA supports Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “standards to reduce the carbon pollution from electric power plants.”  Those standards, which will primarily affect the coal industry, are currently in the public comment phase, and are being fought hard by Big Coal.  The NBA also supports current actions taken by EPA and the Department of Transportation (DOT) to set more stringent fuel standards and additional clean energy research and investment.
  • The NHL believes the best way for the federal government “to impact climate change is to affect the way energy is consumed in the built environment” (i.e. energy efficiency). It recommends “an aggressive nation-wide retrofit initiative” that would reduce costs, even taking into account initial investments and would result in “substantial reductions in GHG emissions.”

The NHL goes even further than the NBA, suggesting what Congress could do going forward:  “Congress could consider legislation that would establish a creative public financing program that could stimulate the changes that are needed to undertake more building retrofit projects

The loan program could be coupled with a contractor guarantee and a commitment to tracking consumption data in order to ensure the program is effective in meeting its goals.”  GSB readers won’t be surprised about the NHL’s forward-thinking/acting-ness on climate–check out our recent interview with the NHL Green Team.

While none of the leagues waded into the most controversial of the sustainability policy waters–Keystone XL, Carbon Tax/Cap & Trade–the NBA’s endorsement of the EPA’s tighter power plant emission standards and the NHL’s proposal of an infrastructure retrofit financing program is a BIG DEAL.  Hopefully, the leagues’ actions and statements will provide spur more Congressional democrats to take a more aggressive posture on climate change than they have to date.

Notice I say  Congressional “democrats”…As far as I know, not one republican member of Congress, in either House, admits that climate change is real. How pathetic is that, when 97-98 percent of climate scientists publishing in the field confirm the consensus???

To me, we’re not going to get to meaningful climate change policy (i.e. a price on carbon) until we find a GOP big shot to say, as I’ve urged my pal LeBron James to say, that “climate change is real. It’s human caused. And we have to do something meaningful about it.”  But, in the meantime, we need as many democrats, from the President, Governors, and members of Congress, to push on climate.

Sheldon Whitehouse
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Co-Chairman, Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change, giving a weekly climate change talk in a nearly empty senate chamber (Photo Credit: Providence Journal)


Finally, a few words on one of those democrats and one of the chairmen of the Climate Change Task Force, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.  Not well known beyond Providence and Woonsocket, Whitehouse has taken on the often thankless job of keeping climate change on the senate’s (and the public’s) radar screen. Please,  PLEASE read Ezra Klein’s terrific Bloomberg.com column–it takes you inside  Whitehouse and his weekly talks on climate change to a largely empty chamber.  Sheldon Whitehouse is a hero.



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  1. Lew, you should be the guest speaker at the next Congressional Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change meeting!

  2. Thanks Dave! I’m sending the post to Sen. Whitehouse’s staff. I doubt a guest speaking gig will result but, as the Lotto ads say, “hey, you never know!”

  3. An excellent report on the Task Force. I’m particularly glad you gave a shout out to Whitehouse. I’ve seen him on TV and he’s taken on a very tough job. Too many of our representatives are focused on simplistic vote-getting “name brand” objectives, like “bring jobs to our district” or “cut taxes.” But longer term goals and strategic thinking about things that might require sacrifices and hard work is a tougher role.

  4. Thanks for the comment, Candy. One thing I note about Whitehouse’s senate monologues is that he almost always talks about how dumb politically it is for the GOP to be in lockstep with the climate deniers. My sense/hope is that climate change will grow in importance as political issue over time and that the GOP will pay a heavy price, forcing it to change its tune. The only thing I don’t know is the timing. How great would it be for Whitehouse to have a GOP colleague with him so he’s not so lonely in the senate well?

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