It’s been four long years. Four long years since the world collectively got together to cheer, heckle, and curse over the single greatest sports phenomenon: football (or “soccer,” as it’s dubbed in the United States). Despite criticism directed at FIFA and this year’s Brazilian hosts, the reach of the World Cup is huge with the last World Cup in South Africa drawing an estimated 3.2 billion viewers.
In contrast to the intense loyalty of football fans, the international environmental movement has been less successful in coming together over the last four years, a lot less successful. True, President Obama is making some progress on climate action in the United States, but previous climate allies Australia and Canada have taken three steps back with new governments and regressive climate policies. Uncertainty in environmental policy is matched with the unpredictability of football games – though some countries have advantages, there is always the possibility of an upset, whether on the pitch or in the parliament.
To get a fresh perspective on football and the environment, Yale’s Environmental Performance Index (EPI) put together a mash-up of FIFA and EPI scores for the 32 World Cup teams to see how a country’s environmental performance compares to its football playing. Here are the results:
Figure. Environmental versus Football Performance of World Cup Countries and Teams (Source: EPI), Download PDF.
There is a slight positive correlation between football and environmental rankings. Interestingly, there is a cluster of South American countries that over perform expectation on football and a group of Asian/Pacific countries that are worse at football than they should be given their environmental performance. Predictably, many European countries are good at both football and environmental protection, with Spain and Germany as extreme positive outliers. African and Middle Eastern countries cluster on the low side of football and environmental performance.
Surprising results? Maybe not, but we’ll have to see how the rest of the games play out and whether extra points awarded for positive environmental performance would make a difference for group play. Now, if only we could get these players, or at least the Golden Boot winner, to raise awareness on environmental issues or help broker a serious climate agreement, we would be in good shape, for football and the environment.
This article was originally posted by The Metric at the Environmental Performance Index.