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The World Cup Choice

world cup emissions

The 27.5 million tons of carbon emitted to the atmosphere as a result of the World Cup competition in Brazil over the past month is an interesting statistic to contemplate.  I love the international game of football.  The drama of it all, the international sporting aspects of the competition and the athleticism truly provide a spectacle well deserving of its nickname “the beautiful game.”

So what does it cost the world’s environment to stage the spectacle that is the World Cup?  It’s hard to quantify, but in terms of carbon emissions alone, 27.5 million tons (Business Green) is a number I have seen bandied about more than once.

CO2 metric ton

But what is that number, exactly?  The only way I could put it into a context was to examine that emissions mass relative to things with which I can relate.

Here are some perspectives according to a US EPA calculator:

  • 5,789,474 passenger vehicles operated for a year
  • 65,476,190,476 miles drive in one year
  • 9,856,631 tons of solid waste sent to a landfill
  • 1,409,534 garbage trucks of recycled waste instated of landfilling
  • 3,094,407,562 gallons of gasoline
  • 29,538,131,042 pounds of coal
  • 3,782,669 home’s electricity use for a year
  • 63,953,488 barrels of oil consumed
  • 7.2 coal fired power plants for a year

I suspect I would create considerable positive feedback if I told people I had a way of saving more than 3 billion gallons of gasoline CO2 equivalent – the equivalent of shutting down a coal fired power plant for 7 years.  I wonder if I told people all we had to do was to pass on staging the World Cup in 2018, if I would elicit the same positive reaction.  In a carbon neutral world, we’ll have to figure out something.  Let’s remember that the numbers provided do not include the global travel associated with the qualifying games and the associated spectator travel the prior four years leading up to the Brazilian extravaganza.

My point: when it comes to being carbon neutral, choices need to be made and sometimes the choices are hard.  What one person thinks is worth the “cost of carbon” may not be the same as another person’s view.  But in a zero-net carbon world, someone is going to have to tell more than 3 million homes in the United States they can’t have electricity in their houses for a year because we need to play a football tournament.  Three million homes is a little more than the number of homes there are in the entire state of Tennessee – where Former Vice President Al Gore’s residence (one of them, anyway) is located.

I predict that will be a tough conversation.

About the Author
Gerald L. Kirkpatrick, P.G. is a Principal Geoscientist and the Managing Partner of Environmental Standards, Inc.  Mr. Kirkpatrick has more than 30 years of applied environmental geoscience experience in both private industry and environmental consulting. Outside of work, Gerry enjoys fishing and an occasional single malt.  A very poor chess player, he remains dedicated to the game, nonetheless.