The impacts of sport emissions on climate: measurement, mitigation and making a difference

Robert L. Wilby*, Madeleine Orr, Duncan Depledge, Richard Giulianotti, George Havenith, Jamie A. Kenyon, Tom K. R. Matthews, Stephen A. Mears, Donald J. Mullan, Lee Taylor

*Corresponding author for this work

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As a global industry, sport makes potentially significant contributions to climate change through both carbon emissions and influence over sustainability practices. Yet, evidence regarding impacts is uneven and spread across many disciplines. This paper investigates the impacts of sport emissions on climate and identifies knowledge gaps. We undertook a systematic and iterative meta-analysis of relevant literature (1992–2022) on organized and individual sports. Using a defined search protocol, 116 sources were identified that map to four sport-related themes: (1) carbon emissions and their measurement; (2) emissions control and decarbonization; (3) carbon sinks and offsets; and (4) behavior change. We find that mega sport events, elite sport, soccer, skiing, and golf have received most attention, whereas grass-roots and women's sport, activity in Africa and South America, cricket, tennis, and volleyball are understudied. Other knowledge gaps include carbon accounting tools and indicators for smaller sports clubs and active participants; cobenefits and tradeoffs between mitigation-adaptation efforts in sport, such as around logistics, venues, sports equipment, and facilities; geopolitical influence; and scope for climate change litigation against hosts and/or sponsors of carbon-intensive events. Among these, researchers should target cobenefits given their scope to deliver wins for both climate mitigation and risk management of sport.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-33
Number of pages14
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Issue number1
Early online date15 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


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