On December 10th, 2010, FIFA announced that Qatar would host the 2022 World Cup, bringing the world’s largest sporting event to the Middle East for the first time since the tournament’s inauguration in 1930. As of publication, the tournament has been running for 4 days (AEST) and will continue until the 18th of December, 2022.
However, despite the lavish stadiums built from the unethical labour of foreigners in search of money, and the discrimination of both women and LGBTQIA+ individuals throughout the Middle East, there’s another victim whose voice has gone slightly unheard: the climate.
How bad is the Qatar World Cup for the climate?
Based on official figures, the tournament will produce around 3.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (Co2). FIFA proudly announced this year’s World Cup as the first in history to be carbon-neutral; until you investigate the fine print. The Carbon Market Watchdog released a report explaining the true impact of the event, which it believes could be 8 times worse than reported.
The initial, though (deliberately) flawed, estimates only considered the emissions produced on a ‘use-share’ basis. Meaning the event’s duration was divided by the predicted lifespan of the stadiums, to arrive at the number of emissions produced for exclusively the World Cup. This completely ignores the true number of direct and indirect emissions that will come from the event and the prolonged existence of the stadiums. The reality is, had the World Cup not been in Qatar, such venues wouldn’t have been built, so the true figures need to include all impacts now and in the future.
According to Qatar, the stadiums will be used after the World Cup for other purposes. However, with a small country population of 2.9 million, these arenas are likely to become mirror images of the abandoned Athens and Rio de Janeiro Olympic stadiums. Additionally, from a transport perspective (that creates 51% of predicted emissions) the data failed to recognise the shuttle flights set to ferry spectators into the desert city each day. DW Planet states, “160 flights a day will take off from neighboring countries, including Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates” due to a lack of accommodation. None of which is factored into the equation.
As already illustrated in a previous blog (Define the term carbon offsetting: an absolute joke), offsets are nothing more than green capitalism at their best, and take a guess at how Qatar plans on alleviating much of the World Cup emissions?
To make matters worse, only 200,000 of the planned 1.8 million tons of carbon credits have been issued. Interestingly, most of the offsetting projects are owned by Qatar itself, lacking independent standards and international recognition.
What about the tangible impacts?
Due to the intense heat throughout the Middle East, water use is another big issue. An article released last month by The Guardian, revealed 10,000 litres of water are set to be used for each pitch, each day. Keep in mind the duration of the World Cup, the 8 stadiums in use, and 130 additional training grounds. To add insult to injury, the water supply streams (all puns intended) from desalination plants. These facilities often produce toxic, salty, warm seawater as a by-product, containing traces of chlorine, heavy metals and anti-foaming agents. All of these are hazardous to coral reefs and smaller organisms living on the seabed. Neighbouring country, Saudi Arabia, has 30 desalination plants that consume 300,000 barrels of oil a day.
As for rubbish, Qatar has vowed to recycle 60% of all waste. An impressive and respectable feat when compared to current global standards (less than 20% of global waste is recycled or composted). The flaw? The other 40% will be turned into energy. Such a process not only produces emissions but requires the input of fossil-fuel energy to run the operations.
Should we be supporting Qatar?
For much of the world, especially the West, the practices seen and allegations spread throughout the media suggest Qatar – and the Middle East as a whole – should not be hosting the largest sporting event on the planet. Allegations of slavery, migrant exploitation, homophobia, and even death in many cases.
Data from over 9 years ago revealed 44 workers had already died from the construction of the World Cup stadiums. Namely, heart attack, heart failure, and suicide. As of recent times, an estimated 6,500 to 10,000 people have died as a result of the inhumane labour migrants were subjected to. Moreover, allegations have revealed possible ‘gay conversion’ centres in Qatar as homosexuality is illegal. LGBTQIA+ sexual orientation results in imprisonment or even the death penalty in certain circumstances.
Are these views aligned with everyone else’s beyond the Middle East? Slavery, exploitation and homophobia – most certainly not, and rightly so.
Most people would agree that Qatar isn’t suitable for hosting the World Cup, even for reasons beyond those highlighted. Perhaps, a testimony to the corruption and financial greed of FIFA.
The 2022 Qatar World Cup has most certainly been at the centre of attention for reasons FIFA and Qatar would rather not have been involved in. Besides the issues that have infested the media – exploitative labour, homophobia, discrimination, low wages – this event has also been the culprit of an environmental calamity. At a time when ‘natural’ disasters are becoming increasingly prevalent, and global inflation rises as a result, the World Cup is held in a country simply unsuitable on a cultural and geographic basis to build and maintain such an event. The price we pay when money speaks volumes.