Sport 2050: Why are we doing this – and why is it important today?
Sport 2050 was designed and created with the ambition to make the future abstract impacts of climate change more real for people by examining how it might impact their daily lives. Sport – one of the most universally affordable areas of life around the world that sparks passions like no other – presents a perfect opportunity to do so.
The second thought behind the project was the sport’s ability to help educate readers who otherwise might not have engaged in climate change science or the news. The science presented is therefore only designed to be introductory level and we have tried to link and include more in-depth reports and articles for those interested.
The imagined scenarios are do not predictions; they are imagined creatively and for illustrative purposes only – but are based both on science and on collective reflections on how sport might adapt.
2050 was chosen as being particularly linked to the lives of people as well as those of their children and grandchildren. It is close enough to be imagined and not too far beyond the planning cycles of major sporting events.
Another advantage of 2050 is that the difference between the possible outcomes becomes more exaggerated over time and that by choosing 2050 the worst-case and best-case scenario predictions come closer. With that in mind, these stories are not rooted in a specific version of future global fossil fuel emissions or environmental change.
We also chose 2050 rather than 2100 to avoid making the forecast too sensational or catastrophic. The intention of the project is not to alarm but to inform and hopefully inspire conversation around the subject. To this end, we have also sought to include some of the many examples of positive work being done in the world of sport to limit its greenhouse gas footprint.
How each sport adapts to environmental changes is arguably just as variable as science. The mitigation measures considered here are not presented as most likely or best practice; they are intended as creative and impactful ways to illustrate the challenges that sport can face.
To guide us through the kind of stories and impacts of climate change we should be examining, we’ve assembled a small group of academics and industry experts who have a body of work specifically related to climate change and to its impact on sport.
David Goldblatt is an academic, journalist, and author of The Ball is Round: A Global History of Football and The Age of Football: The Global Game in the Twenty First Century. He is currently Chairman of the Board of Football For Future, which is interested in climate change and sustainability in English football.
Madeleine Orr is a researcher at the University of British Columbia in the Faculty of Management and Assistant Professor of Sports Management at SUNY Cortland. She is the founder and co-director of the Sport Ecology Group, an international consortium of academics that supports climate awareness and action in sport through research.
Kate Sambrook is a doctoral researcher at the University of Leeds, working between the Priestley International Center for Climate at the Faculty of the Environment and the Center for Decision Research at the Business School. She is the author of Hit for Six – a report on climate change and cricket.
Russell Seymour is founder and CEO of the British Association for Sustainable Sport. He is a member of the Sport Ecology Group Advisory Board and received the London 2012 Sustainability Ambassadors Award for his contribution to sustainable Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Nicholas Watanabe is an Associate Professor of Big Data and Analytics in the Department of Sports and Entertainment Management at the University of South Carolina, which studies the relationship between sport and the environment. He was named a North American Society for Sports Management Researcher in 2018 and received the University of South Carolina Breakthrough Star Research Award in 2021.
Credits: Dave Lockwood, Hannah Lupton, Iain Hepburn, Libby Dawes, Chris Moran, Chris Jones, Michael Short, Hannah Magowan, Andrew Park, Nassos Stylianou, Sam Chadderton, Tom Housden, John Murphy, Becky Dale, Jonny Sodah, Jonathan Jones, Nick Waterworth, Chris Smith.