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Dr Rod Carr: Sport's challenge in climate change mitigation

Dr Rod Carr: Sport's challenge in climate change mitigation


In the face of increasing climate chaos, hope is not a strategy. And for a sport and recreation sector already feeling the impacts of severe weather events, ignorance is no longer an excuse for inaction.  

Those were the hard-hitting home truths delivered by Climate Change Commission Chair Dr Rod Carr as he delivered the opening keynote address at Connections 2023. 

“The climate science is utterly compelling,” Dr Carr said. “It is the result of human activities creating greenhouse gases that is causing the planet to warm. As a consequence, climate is changing. 

“In places it is warmer and wetter and windier and drier and colder. So calling it global warming has been a bit of a misnomer. So, then called it climate change. But perhaps the truth is that it is climate chaos.” 

Whatever the label, the impacts of a warmer planet are now apparent – and have arrived ahead of schedule, Dr Carr says. 

Impacts that were predicted for 2050 are already present, while the outlook for 2050 is for frequent weather extremes. 

“It is the extremes that are going to play havoc with the ways we earn our livings, and the way we live our lives.” 

The sport and recreation sector’s ability to engage, activate and influence meant it had a vital role to play mitigating the effect of global warming. 

Dr Rod Carr speaking at Connections 2023

“The first ask is: take climate change seriously. You need to know that the climate is changing so that you can have a plan and a strategy to prepare for the warmer, wetter, windier and wilder world that we have made. 

“And recognise that lowering emissions will become the only socially acceptable way to promote a business, sport or activity.” 

Dr Carr didn’t discount the challenge facing sector leaders in spearheading a response to climate change – however the alternative would be an even tougher road.   

“It is difficult to reduce emissions and to learn to live with a changing climate. But what will be even more difficult is if we don’t. 

It was vital sector leaders, event organisers and even participants knew their numbers when it came to carbon emissions. 

“Ignorance is no longer an excuse.” 

For an event that attracts 30,000 people the emissions of the spectators were orders of magnitude higher than those of the players, Dr Carr said. 

“The reality is that there are ways that you can reduce emissions. Play in stadia that have good, affordable, accessible public transport.” 

Emissions created by air travel were another major issue for sport and recreation to consider.  

“Humanity is going to have to fly less until we can figure out how to fly with no greenhouse gases.” 

Dr Carr had little time for the notion that New Zealand was too small to make a difference globally. 

“There are 100 countries in the world like us that could use that argument. Together our emissions are equal to those of China. 

“Every little thing that we do makes a difference. One tonne of carbon dioxide emissions by me or by you or by New Zealand or by China is the same as far as the planet is concerned. And one tonne less makes the planet a better place. Every emission counts. Reducing them sooner is better – better for us, better for the planet.” 

Dr Carr’s optimism that practical steps to reduce emissions will become common place in the sector is based on a simple premise – self-interest. 

“Outdoor sports events are likely to be more disrupted more often. You need to accept that and plan for it – rather than hope it won’t happen to your event on the day.  

“Waiting and delaying is likely to increase costs enormously. I’m optimistic because I am now convinced it is in our self-interest to prepare, adapt and reduce emissions. 

“What I know is we will be better off if we get on with this now.” 

Hear more in the full presentation video >

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