World Athletics has published a survey to coincide with the start of the COP26 United Nations Climate Summit in Glasgow ©Getty Images

Nearly 80 per cent of athletes are seriously concerned about climate change and more than half claim that it has already impacted on them, according to a new survey published by World Athletics to coincide with the start of COP26 in Glasgow.

The survey, conducted to gauge the attitudes and level of concern that elite level track and field athletes have about global warming, found that 77 per cent of the respondents admitted they are either very concerned or extremely concerned about climate change, with a further 16 per cent saying they were moderately concerned.

A total of 82 per cent claimed they have already made changes to their lifestyle to reduce the damage they and their activities cause to the environment.

Meanwhile, 76 per cent said they were extremely willing or very willing to change their lifestyle to reduce their damage to the environment and 78 per cent claimed they actively encourage others to adopt lifestyle changes that are more environmentally friendly.

Concern about air pollution, which annually kills seven million people globally, is also high with more than 80 per cent saying they are concerned about air pollution.

Other findings included that 74 per cent of athletes claimed they recycle all or most of the time and over half said that they have participated in environmental advocacy activities, such as tree-planting, local clean-up campaigns or protests.

More than 260 athletes from 89 countries took part in the World Athletics survey which discovered that nearly 80 per cent were concerned about climate change ©World Athletics
More than 260 athletes from 89 countries took part in the World Athletics survey which discovered that nearly 80 per cent were concerned about climate change ©World Athletics

The survey, published as the United Nations Climate Summit opened yesterday in the Scottish city, consisted of two groups.

The first composed of 116 athletes from 59 countries who competed in the World Athletics U20 Championships in Nairobi in August and the second, 152 elite senior level athletes from 55 countries contacted by the World Athletics Athletes' Commission and the Athletics Association.

Altogether, 89 different countries were represented in the survey.

Together, 51 per cent claimed that climate change has already impacted them.

That number was slightly higher among the under-20 athletes, with 54 per cent saying they have already been directly impacted.

A larger proportion of those were from developing countries in Africa, Asia and South America where impacts of climate change are being felt the hardest.

Several respondents also contributed suggestions on the role World Athletics can continue to play.

Some said they wanted a city’s sustainability efforts to play a stronger role in the selection of event hosts and that they wanted to see local organisers provide stronger waste management programmes that encourage less waste and more recycling.

Other suggestions included organising environmental awareness and advocacy campaigns and developing legacy programmes that encourage more sustainable lifestyles. Several also suggested appointing local and global sustainability ambassadors for events composed of athletes and fans.

More than a dozen athletes from four continents, including reigning Olympic champions Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya and Neeraj Chopra of India, contributed to "We can still fix this: Athlete Messages for COP26", a powerful four-minute video released yesterday.

The video, comprising passionate personal messages from athletes urging others to rise to the challenge to combat climate change, is due to be screened repeatedly over the next 12 days at various events in both the blue and green zones Summit in Glasgow.

"Today, our global community has a common goal ahead of us: to save our world from the ill effects of climate change," Chopra, the Olympic javelin throw gold medallist, said.

"For this, we all need to come together and work as one team."

World Athletics President Sebastian Coe spoke of his pride at how athletes were helping lead the debate on climate change.

"The science is clear - we must act decisively to combat climate change and we must act now," he said.

"I'm proud of the way our athletes are responding to this great global challenge.

"The way they're becoming engaged in the issues.

"And the way they are using their voices to encourage their fellow athletes, fans and elected leaders.

"The message is that we must all work together for a healthy environment, for the future of our sport and the future of our planet.

"We should pay attention."