Report forecasts impact of climate change on rugby union

Featured image credit: Billy Brodzinski on Unsplash

A new report published by World Rugby has detailed the potential impact that climate change could have on the sport, with one in 10 of the major stadiums researched worldwide projected to be exposed to an annual submersion risk.

Of the 111 venues investigated, almost a third were found to be in cyclone zones and will face amplifications of wind and cyclone activity.

Of the 10 rugby nations studied – Argentina, Australia, England, Fiji, France, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa and USA – eight will face an increase in the frequency of heavy precipitation and flash floods, while six will face 10 or more additional days when playing is not recommended or even impossible due to temperatures exceeding 35 degrees Celsius.

The report highlights the projected impacts of a two-degree temperature increase on rugby union, and aims to raise awareness of future issues threatening the sport. The findings predict a surge in extreme heat days, intensity and frequency of droughts, heavy rainfalls and flash floods, as well as increased humidity levels among six main climate hazards.

World Rugby has used climate projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), interviews with experts and data from 10 of its member unions to compile the report. A set of practical recommendations have already been put in motion, in line with World Rugby’s Environmental Sustainability Plan 2030.

The study concludes with a series of six recommendations to enhance the sport’s resilience to climate change. These include a call for stakeholders to develop and implement plans to reduce environmental impacts, and a proposal for research into the adaptation and modification of practices, laws, regulations and event specifications to make the sport more resilient.

Another recommendation calls for organisations to promote and support climate change adaptation and mitigation measures at a local level. World Rugby will use the findings from the report to inform its long-term planning, including the organisation of future World Cups and sevens series.

World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “This report aims to answer some of the key questions around climate change by extrapolating the available scientific evidence and peer-reviewed studies and applying them in the context of rugby participation.

“It is my sincere hope that the findings contained in this landmark study will not only raise awareness within our rugby family but also serve as a catalyst for collective action at all levels of the game; and that its recommendations will inspire initiatives that foster sustainable practices, mitigation, adaptation, and resilience within our sport.”