Can Super Bowl XLII teach sports fans about global warming?

The biggest teach-in in the U.S. is the Super Bowl, when almost 100 million of us gather around TV sets from coast to coast and enjoy the show.

We will learn lessons of dedication: how Tom Brady wakes up early in the morning to practice hard enough to unleash his potential and be this year’s MVP and one of the best quarterbacks in history as he chases his fourth Bowl title. We will learn lessons of teamwork: where each player trusts and relies on each other to achieve common goals, something the New England Patriots have perfected so far this year in their winningest undefeated run. And we will learn lessons of hope: how a NY Giants team has overcome tough odds and a mediocre early season to vie for the title. Thanks to some recent steps by the NFL, the Super Bowl may also share some lessons on how our country can tackle one of the biggest public policy challenges of this century, global warming.

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Under the leadership of Jack Groh, the NFL Environmental Program is, for the third straight year, reducing the carbon footprint of the big game. While federal policymakers drag their feet, the NFL is fighting climate change next Sunday by offsetting 500 tons of greenhouse gas emissions through support of wind, solar, geothermal and landfill power as well as planting dozens of acres of trees in the host state of Arizona. They also have recycling initiatives and source many of the products locally. Their website has some info on the effort (including the image to the right). But the big question is whether they prioritize the climate mitigation lesson to the enormous audience. If viewers are inspired to purchase efficient light bulbs, carpool, and support new wind turbines rather than coal plants, then we can get our emissions falling and join Europe as climate leaders rather than laggards.

The more we can make all big events climate responsible, the more we can grow a culture that transforms our country. For further progress, I would love to hear that the NFL and other professional sports leagues commit in 2008 to reducing the emissions of all of their games, not just the championship. The NFL can join Google, 480 universities who are dedicated to climate neutrality, and others who promote climate responsibility throughout their powerful institutions and help it become a part of mainstream culture.

Mitigation efforts in one of the biggest annual games in all of sports are definitely a step in the right direction. Here’s to many more steps that take advantage of the educational opportunity to inspire our country full of sports fans to be climate responsible!

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