World Cup is currently in full swing in Qatar, a country where summer temperature exceeds 110 degrees Fahrenheit. How does the country manages to cool the soccer field down in such temperature outdoor? Qatar has partially resolved the issue by applying energy-guzzling air-conditioning into open-air stadiums.
Outdoor cooling has its justified ground. Heat can contribute to personal illness, as suggested by Stephen Lewandowski, an expert in environmental health and risk assessment at the Uniformed Services University. Sports activities, accompanied by ascending temperatures, can have significant impact on athletes’ cardiovascular system and cause kidney stress. When it comes to more torrid weather,“the body becomes unable to compensate for the heat and the core body temperature rises. And that’s where you get to the really dangerous conditions, moving from heat exhaustion into potential heat stroke,”Lewandowski claims.
Given that children and the elderly people on the audience stand feature less vigorous immune system, the cooling system in open-air stadiums undoubtedly protects them from suffering heat illness. Soccer players, on the other spectrum, benefits from the system as well, performing in best physical condition as Carl James, a sports scientist and physiologist at the Hong Kong Sports Institute, points out the generally impaired performance of soccer players in warmer climates.
However, environmentally speaking, the sustainability of outdoor AC systems raises concerns among experts.
Shelie Miller, a sustainability expert at the University of Michigan, doubts the friendliness of the AC systems to the environment, for that open air cooling renders the cold air escaping to the atmosphere, and thus resulting in more intense greenhouse gas accumulation issue. Though Qatar indicates that the cooling system is powered efficiently by solar energy, Miller questions that the limit of the renewable energy sources should also be noted.
Miller describes a vicious cycle where“air-conditioning is causing climate change, and we need air-conditioning to respond to climate change.” If using outdoor AC systems becomes a norm, people may need to pay the expensive price for the environment.
There has been advents of potential solutions to this problem. Carl James proposes a simple method of giving acclimation period for sports players in hot weathers. A less time-intensive option, Lewandowski suggests, would be adding more breaks into games. Whether these approaches find the balance of environment conservation and human well-being is waiting for more research and evidence.