Crib notes: Rio Olympics puts climate change front and centre

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Olympic stadium, Rio de Janeiro (Flickr/wikimapa)


Rio de Janeiro is pitching this Olympics as the “green games”, as Friday’s opening ceremony made clear.

Ceremony director Fernando Meirelles – best known for the film City of God – used one of the biggest international platforms going to raise awareness about climate change.

Each of the 11,000 competitors was given a seed to plant, which will create an athletes’ forest in the Deodoro zone.

“Climate change and the depletion of natural resources need our attention and the Olympic Opening Ceremony is a wonderful opportunity to shed light on this subject,” said Meirelles.

“Brazil, with the largest tropical forest and the largest reserve of biodiversity on the planet, is the right place for this message to be spread.”

If you’re more interested in substance than symbolism, here’s the games’ sustainability report.

The carbon footprint of the two-week tournament is estimated at 3.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, including the air travel of spectators. That is equivalent to a month worth of emissions from 10 million people.

Organisers are using biofuels and investment in public transport to limit the impact. Chemicals giant Dow is to offset 0.5Mt through specific verified projects.

Warming up

As temperature records keep tumbling, it becomes harder and harder for athletes to break speed records in events like the marathon.

So warns NGO the Climate Observatory in a special report on how global warming will affect sports in Brazil.

Overheating sports stars tire quicker, it warns. Technical adaptations could be costly, heightening inequality between rich and poor competitors.

Later this century, it will become impossible to play sports outdoors in the city of Manaus, with year-round “wet-bulb” temperatures above 32C.

Downplaying hopes

Climate change made the front page of the UK’s Observer newspaper, with a warning we are “perilously close” to breaking the 1.5C global warming target fought for by vulnerable countries.

It will come as no surprise to Climate Home readers, but underlines the heroic effort needed for the #1o5C #sport4climate campaign many athletes are promoting.

Airports v climate

A never-ending saga in British politics, airport expansion is seen as an economic imperative, but keeps getting delayed due to local objections about noise and air pollution.

What gets less coverage in the debate is the head-on clash with climate goals – something the Campaign for Better Transport has set out to rectify.

To reconcile a new runway with emissions limits, the price of carbon would have to be so high it added at least £270 (US$350) to a return flight to New York for a family of four, analysts found.

Air Traffic Controls by climatehomescribd on Scribd

David Nussbaum, chief executive of WWF-UK, said: “This report exposes the truth that was buried in the Airport Commission’s report: new airport capacity is difficult – and expensive – to reconcile with the need to reduce carbon emissions.

“Before greenlighting any new runways, the UK Government needs to set out a plan illustrating how any new airport capacity would not bust our carbon budgets and unravel our Paris commitments. It must also work with other nations on a strong global deal to cap and reduce emissions from flying.

Chinese straddle-buses

This futuristic public transport concept has come to pass in the city of Qinhuangdao: a bus elevated over road traffic.

It’s way cheaper than an underground system and doesn’t compete with cars for space – what’s not to love?

Then again, as Vox’s David Roberts writes, it raises some questions. Like: isn’t it disorienting to drive underneath this giant moving bridge?

And information on this breakthrough is patchy. Let’s file under: believe it when you see it.

Read more on: Climate politics