Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

COP25: Growing tourism to severely impact environmental health

  • Written by  Marco Magrini
  • Published in Climate
COP25: Growing tourism to severely impact environmental health
06 Dec
2019
A report presented at COP25 highlights the trouble with tourism, but does the future of holiday travel cast an even darker shadow?

Under the Paris Agreement, nations, corporations and entire industrial sectors are expected to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions. But tourism will not comply, or at least not for now. According to a new report presented by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the International Transport Forum (ITF) at the UN Climate Change Conference in Madrid, transport-related CO₂ emissions from tourism are predicted to increase from 1,597 to 1,998 million tonnes between 2016 and 2030. It is a sound 25 per cent increase.

Stay connected with the Geographical newsletter!
signup buttonSince its inception in 1935, Geographical has reported on many thousands of global issues, allowing readers to look past the boundaries and borders of our world and take a broader perspective. In these turbulent times, we’re still committed to telling expansive stories from across the globe, highlighting the everyday lives of normal but extraordinary people. Stay informed and engaged with Geographical.

Get Geographical’s latest news delivered straight to your inbox every Friday!

Tourism is widely expected to keep on growing. International and domestic arrivals are expected to jump from 20 to 37 billion in ten years from now. In 2030, their greenhouse-gas emissions will represent 5.3 per cent of all man-made emissions. As tourism produced 22 per cent of global transport CO₂ in 2016, it will continue doing so by the end of the new decade (21 per cent). Emissions per passenger/kilometre are expected to decline over the coming decade, provided the airline industry will really make progress in achieving low-carbon travel.

What the study doesn’t take into account though, is the psychology of the future average passenger. The movement Flight Shame, which encourages people to give up flying in order to save the planet, is as budding as it is unpredictable. Now, let’s put aside the carbon-free oceanic navigation enjoyed by teenage activist Greta Thunberg aboard expensive solar-powered ships. In the coming future, some people may indeed cut back on flying, especially as the impacts of climate change will become more evident. If Flight Shame were to spread, the growth of tourism could be hampered.

Yet, there is a flip side of the coin. A compelling opinion piece recently published in the New York Times, makes the point. ‘The tourism industry depends on air travel, and increasingly, saving nature is directly linked to tourism’s economic clout,’ writes Costas Christ, founder of Beyond Green Travel, a consultancy. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, one in ten people are employed in the tourism industry, more than ten per cent of the global economy.

Get Geographical delivered to your door!
signup buttonAs we brace ourselves on our personal islands, it can be hard to picture the processes of the planet continuing to whir. Marooned in our homes, it’s vital that we stay positive, motivated and informed. Geographical is committed to helping you explore the world from the comfort of your sofa. Get the world delivered to your door, with Geographical.

Subscribe today to Geographical’s monthly print and digital magazine and save 30% off the cover price! 

And here is the catch. If people get poorer, their impact on natural environment will worsen rapidly, from the Serengeti to the Maldives. Aviation accounts for approximately 2.5 per cent of man-made emissions. ‘By contrast, deforestation contributes nearly 20 per cent, about as much as all forms of transportation combined,’ argues Christ, a conservationist and sustainable tourism expert. In other words, while damaging to the environment, tourism provides an economic sense to the local preservation of natural resources.

Generally speaking, this kind of dualism – every silver lining has a cloud, and vice versa – applies to nations, corporations and industrial sectors, all facing the urgent need to rein in their contributions to the impending climate crisis. Here is precisely why there should be a price on carbon emissions, call it a tax or not. It would provide an economic reason to decarbonise the world’s wide web of economies, from China to Coca-Cola to the tourism industry.

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox by signing up to our weekly newsletter and get a free collection of eBooks!

geo line break v3

Related items

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...

Climate

Marco Magrini analyses the implications of the COP26 delay

Climate

Covid-19 has forced us to reduce destructive atmospheric behaviours and…

Wildlife

Recruiting armies of albatrosses could enable the detection of illegal…

Nature

What better time to get reading? We’ve collected some of…

Nature

We may be stuck inside, but there’s no need to…

Climate

It is supposed to ease the transfer of workers in…

Wildlife

New discoveries about the way grizzly bears retain muscle strength…

Climate

Capturing carbon from power stations and other high-carbon processes is…

Polar

 Dubbed the riskiest glacier on Earth, an ongoing project to…

Climate

Most people think they are more environmentally friendly than others.…

Climate

The discovery of a new form of the aurora borealis…

Wildlife

The release of pharmaceuticals into rivers and lakes is having…

Geophoto

Whatever your subject, looking through a macro lens provides an…

Geophoto

German physicist, biologist and photographer, Andreas Kay was based in…

Geophoto

Prestigious photography competition returns for a third year

Wildlife

 New evidence reveals just how persistent some neonicotinoids are in…

Oceans

Scientists are using underwater loudspeakers to attract fish species back…

Climate

For years, China was the go-to destination for exporting the…

Geophoto

Capturing the perfect shot sometimes means not having the camera…

Energy

New research reveals that the UK needs to act fast…