Climate change is already having a devastating impact upon the lives of people around the world. Many of the poorest people and countries in the global South are suffering the worst of its effects, despite wealthy, industrialised Northern countries being largely responsible for its causes. Furthermore, poor Southern countries have the least resources and capacity to mitigate and adapt to the challenges of climate change. These include rising sea levels, loss of biodiversity, and changing weather patterns leading to increased and prolonged periods of drought and flooding.
Aviation – a major component of tourism – accounts for some 5 per cent of global carbon emissions, constituting a significant contributor to global warming. However, the aviation industry continues to expand, while the tourism industry more broadly is failing to comprehensively address climate change. Cheap domestic and international flights have become the norm, with consumer demand rising steeply in the rapidly growing economies of India and China.
Tourism and those who depend upon it for their livelihoods also stand to be major victims of climate change. Low-lying island idylls, such as The Maldives and the Pacific Islands, are already falling victim to rising sea levels and sea acidification that is destroying the sealife that tourists flock to see. Meanwhile, rising temperatures mean snow shortages in many of our favourite ski resorts.
Many poor countries and communities are heavily dependent on tourism, despite major question marks over its long-term sustainability. If tourist numbers were to suddenly decline, this would have a negative impact on local people. This means that climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies need to take such tourism dependencies into account, and foster alternative, sustainable livelihood sources and strategies for local people and economies if tourism declines.
Tourism Concern believes that consumers need to take a responsible attitude to flying. Fly less and switch to other forms of transport, particularly for shorter journeys. If flying long-haul, try to go to destinations in developing countries and to stay longer, so that your contribution to the host economy is greater. Try to reduce your carbon footprint both in the destination and in other aspects of your life at home to compensate for the carbon cost of flying.
Carbon offsetting schemes are not the answer. Their benefits are often exaggerated and they can lead to perverse incentives for companies to sell more flights so that more people pay money to offset. However, perhaps most importantly, such schemes amount to behavioural displacement and ‘business as usual’, when what is urgently needed is behavioural change. We all need to take our share of responsibility for climate change and take steps to reduce our carbon emissions, both as individuals and as developers.
Climate change affects every country in the world. Some of those experiencing the effects most acutely include: Antarctica, The Maldives, The Pacific Islands, The Caribbean, Bangladesh.