The World Cup in Qatar is the most expensive World Cup ever. The carbon footprint of the oil sales, with which the emirate has to finance the costs of the tournament, is in nine figures.

In order to recoup the approximately $220 billion in costs for the 2022 World Cup, which Qatar is estimated to have invested so far, the country would have to sell three billion barrels of crude oil – which should cause a total of almost one billion tons of CO2 emissions. This is the result of a study by the stock exchange portal Tradingpedia.

In the first step, the authors of the study calculate the total costs of the World Cup in Qatar. The eight stadiums that the emirate built in five cities cost around eight to ten billion dollars, the other infrastructure such as hotels and roads around 200 billion dollars. The infrastructure includes:

Together with other expenses – for example for advertising and personnel – the entire World Cup should cost the desert state around 220 billion dollars.

The authors now convert these costs into oil sales. This is somewhat inaccurate because Qatar also makes money from tourism, offices and other sources. Nonetheless, of the roughly $160 billion that the emirate took in in total in 2021, around $120 billion came from oil sales, with a good chunk of the rest from LNG sales. For a rough approximation, it is enough to convert the total cost of the World Cup to oil, the study says.

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The rest is just math: From the time the World Cup was awarded to Qatar in 2010 until today, a barrel of oil has cost an average of around $75. At these prices, Qatar would have to sell around three billion barrels to make $220 billion.

With a value of 317 kilograms of CO2 per barrel of crude oil, which is said to contain production, transport, processing into gasoline, kerosene or other products and, for many of them, combustion, this corresponds to a total CO2 emission of at least 928 million tons of CO2 – almost a billion tons of CO2. That corresponds roughly to the amount that all of the world’s traffic emits within nine days.

Important for understanding the study: Qatar built many of the infrastructure projects mentioned not only for the World Cup, but also in preparation for the post-oil period. According to the study, without the World Cup, the projects would hardly have been completed by 2022, and some would not even have started. The study therefore assigns them entirely to the costs of the World Cup. A controversial decision for sure.

The fact that the study is nevertheless meaningful is shown, among other things, by the fact that the sum of around 220 billion dollars makes the costs of previous World Cups paler: Russia invested almost twelve billion dollars for the 2018 World Cup, Brazil four years earlier around 15 billion dollars. The 2006 World Cup in Germany even cost only 4.3 billion dollars. Even if the study included only a quarter of the $200 billion in infrastructure costs in the total World Cup costs, the World Cup in Qatar would still be around five times more expensive than its predecessor event in Russia, with total costs of around $60 billion. The CO2 emissions required for financing would remain huge.

However, Qatar is not solely to blame for this CO2 balance: The emirate would not sell the crude oil if someone did not want to use it. In addition, if Qatar had not been allowed to host the World Cup, the emirate would probably have extracted the oil anyway and used it to finance other expenditures. Above all, the study shows how dependent our world is on oil and how much money some countries are making from it.

To put this in context: In 2021 Qatar produced 1.8 million barrels of oil per day. The emirate would need almost four and a half years to produce the roughly three billion barrels that were needed to finance the World Cup.