Unseasonal heat in Doha, Qatar this week is being made worse by climate change, according to real-time analysis by Climate Central.
World Cup football fans have been sweltering in the high temperatures, with temperatures reaching the early 30°s Celsius.
And according to Climate Central’s analysis, temperatures in Doha at the moment are more than 3°C hotter across the day than normal for the time of year – an increase that climate change made at least twice as likely.
The study shows World Cup football fans have been sweltering in the high temperatures, with temperatures reaching the early 30°s Celsius, even with the tournament shifted to the winter and outdoor air conditioning widely used to combat the heat.
According to Climate Central’s analysis, part of their Climate Shift Index, temperatures in Doha at the moment are more than 3°C hotter across the day than normal for the time of year – an increase that climate change made at least twice as likely.
The Climate Shift Index applies a five-point scale to indicate how much more likely or frequent high and low temperatures have become as a result of climate change.
A Climate Shift Index level of 3 means the day’s average temperature was made at least 3x more likely than it would have been without the influence of human-caused climate change.
Global temperatures have climbed quickly since the first World Cup tournament in 1930. As warming has intensified, the world’s most popular sport is feeling the heat. Among the primary concerns is the health, safety, and performance of athletes and on-field officials in extreme heat and humid heat — conditions that are likely to occur more frequently as global temperatures continue to rise.
The 2022 World Cup location presents additional heat risks. A 2020 study indicates that the region around Qatar currently experiences some of the most extreme humid heat on the planet. And with continued warming, the Persian Gulf is projected to become a global hotspot for serious and life-threatening humid heat levels.
Dr Andrew Pershing, director of climate science at Climate Central said: “The stress of competing in extreme heat is already affecting more athletes around the world, and climate change is making outdoor sports riskier for both pros and the rest of us. It will keep getting even riskier, until net greenhouse gas emissions are halted and global temperatures stop rising.”
Heat-related risks to athlete health and performance will continue to be a concern for global sporting events hosted in relatively warm climates such as in Australia (2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup), heat wave-prone parts of Europe (2024 Summer Olympics), and in parts of Mexico, the US, and Canada (2026 FIFA World Cup).
As the biggest stage for the world’s most popular sport, the 2022 World Cup is expected to draw over one million spectators from around the globe. During extreme heat, spectators can also face health risks — especially those in vulnerable groups such as children and older adults, or those traveling from cooler regions who may not be acclimated to local conditions.
Moreover, hosting an event such as the World Cup also requires years of effort from thousands of workers, many of whom work outdoors constructing stadiums, housing, and other facilities. Outdoor workers face elevated health risks in extreme heat — a frequent occurrence in Qatar, which is one of the hottest and fastest-warming places on the planet.
Recent analysis by the UN’s International Labour Organization indicates that outdoor workers in Qatar face occupational heat stress during at least four months of the year, which may have contributed to mortality risk among migrant workers in Qatar in recent years.
Recent separate analysis found that the World Cup’s carbon emissions were around three times worse than FIFA had claimed, and that claims the tournament would be carbon neutral were “bogus”.
Major events like the World Cup also require a lot of energy, materials, and transport. As a result, these events cause their own heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions. FIFA anticipates that all activities relating to the 2022 World Cup (from 2011 to 2023) will emit about 3.6 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents — equal to the annual emissions from over 775,000 gasoline-powered cars, according to EPA.
That’s also more than a 70 per cent increase relative to the 2018 World Cup, and the highest FIFA-reported World Cup emissions since reporting began in 2010.The largest shares of heat-trapping emissions from the 2022 World Cup are expected to come from travel (52 per cent, primarily from international air travel), infrastructure construction and operation (24 per cent), and accommodations (20 per cent).
Reducing football’s carbon footprint will continue to be a priority in the coming decades. In 2018, FIFA signed on to the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework to reduce FIFA’s emissions by 50 per cent by 2030 and reach net-zero by 2040. The FIFA Climate Strategy outlines plan to reach these goals.
The writer of this article is Dr. Seema Javed, a known Environmentalist, Journalist and Communications Expert