MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia's cricket board will look to finalise a "sustainability strategy" in 2020 amid concerns that extreme heat brought by climate change is risking players' safety and could lead to major disruptions to summer playing schedules.
A hot, dry summer has already seen a Big Bash League match in Canberra abandoned midway through due to hazardous smoke from bushfires raging across eastern Australia and a number of amateur-level and youth games have also been called off due to health concerns.
A report released by the Australian Conservation Foundation on Friday warned Australia's premier Boxing Day test might have to be moved to cooler months as the number of extreme heat days in Melbourne rises in coming decades.
Governing body Cricket Australia said it acknowledged "a more holistic approach to sustainability" was required to "lessen the impact of climate change on the natural environment."
“We acknowledge we have a role to play and our executive team are currently in the process of proactively developing a strategy for sustainability," Karina Keisler, CA's communications and stakeholder engagement chief said in a statement on Friday.
"The strategy is in the early stages of development and significant progress will be made to bring this to life in 2020."
Australia were playing day two of the Boxing Day test against New Zealand at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Friday where the temperature reached a high of 23 degrees Celsius (73 Fahrenheit). Day five of the test on Monday, should it last that long, is forecast to be 41 degrees Celsius.
The teams played the opening match of their three-test series in Perth earlier this month during a run of three consecutive days of 40 degree-plus weather.
The report, citing analysis from the Monash Climate Change Communication Research Hub, said continuing to play the Boxing Day test in its current format would "expose players and fans to unprecedented levels of extreme heat".
"If no effective climate mitigation is taken, consideration must be given to moving the Melbourne test to the shoulder season," it added.
Australia is battling bushfires that have burned more than 4 million hectares (9.9 million acres) across the country, destroyed hundreds of homes and been linked to the deaths of eight people.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)
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