With Januarys predicted to get hotter and this year’s Australian Open already marred by smoke from bushfires, new research should prompt authorities to recognise the threat climate change presents to tennis and take action to safeguard its future as a summer sport.

A new report, Love 40 Degrees? Climate change, extreme heat and the Australian Open, by the Monash Climate Change Communication Research Hub, finds:

  • Australian tennis is already experiencing the impact of climate change, with smoke from bushfires and extreme heat driven by climate change increasing health risks for players and the likelihood of match disruptions.
  • Tennis authorities should consider a series of actions to protect players, such as extending the length of the tournament — to allow games to be cancelled in the hottest part of the day if it’s too hot on court — or moving the event to November or March.
  • Climate change threats may soon represent ‘material financial issues’ for Tennis Australia and its directors, who could face liability under the Corporations Act for failing to adequately address and report these risks.

“Climate change is already hitting the Australian Open hard, with its recent history of players competing in extreme heat and the lead up to this year’s tournament marred by smoke from bushfires,” said Gavan McFadzean, Climate Change Program Manager at the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), which commissioned the research.

“The number of days over 35° in Melbourne during January is predicted to increase in coming decades.

“Appropriate heat policies are important to protect player health, but so is action to combat climate change, which is driving this extreme heat and more ferocious bushfire seasons.

“Tennis authorities have a responsibility to recognise the threat climate change presents to the Australian Open’s future as a January tournament.

“We commend Tennis Australia for joining the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework and urge it to raise its voice for strong, meaningful climate action from our government.”

Read the full report

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