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How Environmental degradation and Climate Change affect the Sports industry

The consequences of environmental degradation and climate change will affect everybody, and every system put in place by mankind including sports.  As a society, sports have become a huge part of our social as well as our economic life.  We depend on sports to keep us active, healthy and make new human connections. Due to the current obesity levels, children are being encouraged to participate in sports and some developed countries like Canada have created tax credits incentives for parents to enroll their children in sporting activity.

Economically, the sports industry including sports tourism has become a huge money-making activity for businesses and governments. According to a report by A.T. Kearney, the sports industry today is an all-embracing business that spans the field of play from the food and memorabilia stands at the stadium, to media rights and sponsorship. It was stated that as much as €450 billion ($620 billion) is spent every year in the sports industry, which is catering to an ever-more eager fan base.

This complex business environment features numerous participants from rights owners (clubs, leagues, federations and athletes) to sports agencies, online betting businesses, sponsors and broadcasters all competing for a bigger slice of the pie. In 2015, CNN, reported on a new app connecting fans to player.

According to Forbes, the sports market in North America was worth $60.5 billion in 2014 and it’s expected to reach $73.5 billion by 2019. In all these calculations and projections, the impacts of environmental degradation and climate change are ignored although the economic threat is huge and should be addressed. According to UNEP, the resulting outcomes implies that the sport industry will be impacted by the following environmental issues:

  1. Poor indoor and outdoor air quality giving rise to respiratory illness and difficulty in breathing.
  2. Release of toxic chemicals from natural or man-made disasters cause severe physiological reactions and other health issues (Cancer). Use of pesticides to care for lawns, gardens cause the same issues.
  3. Water pollution/bacteria may arise from release of toxic chemicals and pesticides reducing oxygen levels in water bodies. These chemicals leach into ground water and other water bodies which ends up in the water and food we ingest.
  4. Noise pollution causes hearing difficulties and stress
  5. Ozone layer depletion increases UV radiation exposure and skin problems including cancer. 
  6. Climate change leads to predictable and extreme weather patterns making it difficult to engage in sport, disrupt outdoor games and increase insurance premiums.
  7. Habitat/biodiversity loss also leads to loss of natural areas to practice sport.

Other issues include poor waste management practices especially excessive use of single – use plastics in manufacturing consumables causing ill health to our Eco-systems. These issues affect the players as well as their fans. Once people are affected, organizations are affected. So, knowing all these issues, what do we do? Do we still anticipate making all that money from sports, if we do nothing to reduce our negative impacts on the environment or adapt to the changing climate? We talk about disruptive technologies, what about disruptive climate change?

Obie Agusiegbe
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