Health, Sports and Climate Change

In 2015, the World Health Organization deemed climate change “the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century.” Unchecked global warming will lead to extreme heat, increased flooding, food and water scarcity and more prevalent disease. It will also impact countless other aspects of our daily lives, including sports (which can themselves affect climate change) and personal health. Here are several recent articles that highlight the intersections between health, sports and climate change.

Time Out: To Save Itself, Sport Must Join the Fight Against Climate Change

From shorter ski seasons and fake snow to summer heatwaves and droughts, climate change will affect sports as much as any other aspect of our lives. And sports, like most large industries, have played a role in the current climate crisis. But here are five ways the sports industry can help us achieve a greener future.

Environmental Toxins Are Worsening the Obesity Pandemic

Pollutants found in plastics, pesticides, flame retardants and more may contribute to obesity, according to a recent scientific review. These obesogens disrupt the body’s metabolism and make it easier to gain weight and harder to lose it. Researchers estimate that such environmental toxins may account for 15-20% of increases in obesity rates.

Health, Sports and Climate Change

The Pandemic Blueprint for Sport to Cut Back On Carbon Emissions

Reducing cross-country air travel for sporting events would be good for the health of athletes and for the climate. And that, in my opinion, is how we’ll move the needle on many climate issues: by realizing that reducing emissions has other unrelated benefits.

Extreme Heat and Air Pollution Create an Uneven and Risky Playing Field

Global warming means fewer and costlier winter sports and hotter summer conditions. These changes will likely result in fewer opportunities for athletes at all of all ages. And we can expect the biggest impact on athletes from historically marginalized communities.

Rising Costs of Climate Change Threaten to Make Skiing a Less Diverse, Even More Exclusive Sport

Over 90% of the snow at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing was fake. Thanks to increasing global temperatures, more competitions and winter sports venues will require fake snow. But snowmaking equipment costs millions of dollars and requires considerable energy, labor and water use. As a result, we should expect climate change to make winter sports more costly and exclusive and less green and diverse.

Hot, Costly, and Dangerous: Climate Change and Sports Mega-Events

Excess water use to make the snow for the Beijing Olympics could have lasting environmental impacts. Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic golf course could end up underwater if sea levels continue to rise. Examples like these show how climate change presents another reason for creating permanent host sites for the Olympics and other sports mega-events.

Why Climate Change and Sports Is an Environmental Justice Problem

Environmental injustice—the unequal access to green spaces, proximity to traffic and hazardous waste sites, and exposure to air and water pollution driven by historical discrimination—has become a major side effect of climate change. Limited access to sports is yet another consequence of how increasing global temperatures disproportionately affect minority and disenfranchised communities.