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Climate Change: How to do sport in a world 4°C warmer


The increasing frequency of heatwaves and droughts, rising water levels, melting snow and glaciers… the effects of climate change are already visible. A report published by WWF France is enlightening on the practical consequences for athletes and people involved in sport if temperatures rise by 4°C.


Sylvain Landa, Editorial Director, Sport and Citizenship Think Tank

The season for doing sport shortened by one or two months a year. More than a hundred sailing clubs threatened by rising water levels. An 80% reduction in the depth of snow covering the Alps in winter. Half of indoor sports facilities in France becoming uncomfortably warm…: this alarming picture is revealed by WWF France in a report published in July 2021 and supported by the French Ministry of Sport. In the hope of sounding the alarm on the existing situation and its future consequences, and of raising awareness among sport stakeholders, WWF France looked at two climate change scenarios: the first with an increase of 2°C in average world temperatures (with the Paris agreement respected), and the second with an increase of 4°C.

The first consequence is a rise in average temperatures with increasingly frequent heatwaves, which would double by 2050. These extra degrees will have an effect on the health of people who do sport, because it is considered unadvisable to do sport in temperatures exceeding 32°C. Global warming could lead to a loss of 24 days doing sport if temperatures are 2°C warmer, rising to two months in a world at +4°C.


“Helping those involved in sport to make changes for the environment”

Climate change would also have an impact on sports facilities. Half of French facilities were built before 1987 and are far from being energy efficient. As for outdoor sports, particularly on the coast, the IPCC estimates that sea levels could rise by a metre or more if temperatures increase by 4°C. In the +4°C scenario, the report shows that nearly a quarter of French coastal sailing clubs would have to be relocated by the end of the century. This proportion would reach a third on the Mediterranean coast.

When it comes to winter sports, every degree of warming in the future will lead to the loss of a month of snow, which would have an effect on the quality of the snow, the period of snow cover and the risk of avalanches. “Climate change is becoming more severe as the earth becomes warmer. (…) Stakeholders in sport must get involved in action to preserve the environment. We all have a role to play!” is the call from Isabelle Autissier, Honorary President of WWF France. In order to involve the sport sector in this global challenge, WWF France has outlined a series of recommendations, including: ensuring all sporting activities are in line with the goals of reducing impact on climate and biodiversity; integrating environmental imperatives in every aspect of sport; helping those involved in making the necessary changes; measuring and anticipating the consequences of climate change, and inciting people to change their behaviour by including education about the environment and sustainability in sport federations’ educational programmes.


Find this article and more in our special magazine “Sport and ODD”

Journal 53, sport and citizenship 53

Sport et citoyenneté