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The Most Iconic British Sports Are Under Threat From Climate Change

Brits love our sport — it’s central to our national culture. But some of our best loved sports are facing an unexpected threat: climate change. 

Extreme weather conditions are already affecting sports across the country, according to new research by the Climate Coalition. 

A report by the Coalition, a group of 130 British NGOs, focusses on football, golf, and cricket — with hundreds of years of history between them.

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“Some of our most iconic British sports are being threatened by a changing climate,” said Dame Katherine Grainger, chair of UK sport and an Olympic rower, in the report. 

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“Storms and floods are wreaking havoc on football and cricket pitches across the country, historic golf courses are succumbing to higher seas and storm surges, and winter sports are under threat from reducing snow," she added. 

Heavy rain is leaving pitches and fairways water-logged and unplayable, according to the report released on Wednesday, while rising sea levels are eroding historic golf courses in Scotland. 

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A key part of the problem is that Britain’s weather is getting wetter — of the seven wettest years ever on record in the UK, six of them have been since 2000. 

According to the Coalition, their research shows that climate change doesn’t only threaten the obvious sports — those dependent on snow and ice, such as at the Winter Olympics starting this week in South Korea — but also those we take for granted day-to-day in the UK. 

Increasingly, we’ll see “cancelled football matches, flooded cricket grounds, and golf courses crumbling into the sea,” it says. 

Steve Isaac, director of golf course management at the R&A, the body which governs golf outside the US and Mexico, said, in his opinion, golf was “more impacted by climate change than any sport aside from skiing.” 

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One course for example, Montrose, which dates back to 1562, has had to redesign its layout by moving tees and fairways inland because of coastal erosion — of up to 70m in places.

Trump, who doesn’t believe greenhouse gas emissions are the main cause of climate change, owns two golf courses in Scotland. 

Meanwhile, in the world of cricket, 27% of England’s home One Day Internationals since 2000, were played with reduced overs due to rain disruptions, according to the study. 

And in football, extreme weather events caused 25 Football League fixtures to be cancelled during the 2015-6 season, added the study. 

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Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of then UNFCCC, added: “For too long we’ve treated the planet as if we’re in a sprint — using all our energy and resources in one short blast. We must understand that, far from a sprint, we are, together, in the longest of marathons.” 

But while the report reveals the impacts of extreme weather, it also “showcases how sport is starting to play a part in tackling climate change but cutting emissions and by taking a lead, inspiring others to follow.” 

“We are far from being powerless to act,” it reads. “In the sporting spirit of aiming to win, there are clear actions we can all take to get the right result.” 

The report was released to coincide with the launch of the Climate Coalition’s “Show the Love” campaign, which aims to highlight the “unexpected and everyday impacts of climate change, as it’s these that have the potential to wake us all up to the new reality.”

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The Coalition has made three key recommendations for how the world of sport can become an integral part of the fight against climate change. 

1. Sports clubs and government bodies all need to reduce carbon emissions and other environmental impacts. 

2. Governments across the UK need to help us all live more sustainably by driving down greenhouse gas emissions. 

3. British sport should fully engage with the Paris Climate Agreement, and play its part. 

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