Two football fans take on Qatar’s climate and human rights atrocities
Qatar’s bid for the FIFA World Cup is one that was shrouded in controversy and corruption. Recently, the former president of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, admitted that allowing Qatar to host was a mistake. Many believe that FIFA was bribed by Qatar, with Blatter having stood trial for fraud, from which he was ultimately exonerated in June. Although he has since been cleared, there’s still much to unravel with this situation.
Thus, as two devoted football fans (and yes, it is football), we are putting aside our North London rivalry in order to shed light on the blatant disregard that Qatar has exhibited for climate change and human rights.
FIFA estimates that over 5 billion people will tune in to watch at least one game of the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup later this month. Every four years, this event brings with it excitement for fans while holding terrible consequences for the environment.
Over 1.2 million tourists from all across the globe are expected to visit Qatar. People will be flying in from South America (about 18 hours of flight time), North America (about 16 hours), and Europe (roughly six hours). In addition to these flights, it is suspected that many people will be staying in nearby Dubai and flying one hour to Qatar for each match day. This is important to highlight as each hour of flight time is estimated to emit over 250 kg of greenhouse gasses per passenger. To put this into perspective, a 12 hour flight is about equivalent to the yearly greenhouse gasses emitted by the average household in B.C. in 2018.
Another contributing factor to the World Cup’s emission of greenhouse gasses is the construction of logistical requirements. Qatar has built seven new stadiums, a new airport, and approximately 100 hotels just for this event. A conservative estimate puts the greenhouse emissions of the new stadiums alone at about 2.06 megatonnes — a number equivalent to the yearly amount generated by 664 516 British Columbian households.
Lastly, it should be noted that the money Qatar is using to host the upcoming World Cup is generated from polluting sources. Over 80 per cent of Qatar’s government revenue since 2014 was from the oil and gas sector. This results in Qatar emitting the most greenhouse gasses per capita in the entire world, producing just over double the amount Canada does.
Aside from the massive and harmful impact of the World Cup on the climate, the Qatari government has also blatantly disregarded the safety of migrant workers. Qatar hired foreign workers from countries such as India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and the Philippines, and many of these workers made as little as six euros a day, working nearly every day of the week for up to 10 hours. Many also received pay late, and some were refused pay after completion.
Since 2010, over 6 500 foreign workers have died due to unsafe working conditions. Many outlets believe that the number could be higher, as Qatar does not report deaths involving heart attacks and respiratory failure, even though these are linked to heat stroke, which is a primary threat for workers there.
Another detail to remember is that the 2022 World Cup is being held in November and December. This is due to the extreme heat that players would face in Qatar if the World Cup was played in the regular June/July slot. Whilst players get a relief from these temperatures, workers did not, labouring year-round to make the tight deadlines. The temperatures heading into December average roughly 18 degrees celsius, but in June, July, and August, they average just under 36 degrees, with some days getting higher than 45 degrees.
As football fans, it’s important to understand the issues surrounding this World Cup. It’s easy to get immersed in the beautiful game and the spectacular venues and forget about the bigger issues embedded within.
This isn’t a call to boycott the games, but it is a call to research their circumstances. Football is growing in popularity in Canada, signified by Canada entering its first World Cup in 36 years. We must fight for change and ensure this is the last time human life and the environment are disregarded for this sport — Canada must hold itself to a higher standard when it hosts the World Cup with the U.S. and Mexico in 2026 and we must hold them accountable.