Tourism is a one of the contributors to manmade climate change. Hence, the industry must do its part to clean up and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible. And one of the several things we can do to mitigate these problem is to know how tourism has contributed to climate change. But it should not end in knowing, we should act to reverse the impacts of climate change.
Tourism produces about 8% of the overall CO2 emissions and this percentage is constantly growing. According to a study published in Nature Climate Change in 2018, tourism produced emissions will increase by 4% every year. This data is worrying at the very least, hence there should be alternative solutions on how the tourism industry operates (Dunne, 2018; Fava, 2020). Tourists contribute to climate change in a number of ways – through travel by air, rail and road, for example, and by consuming goods and services, such as food, accommodation and souvenirs.
Here are some areas of tourism that contributed to climate change:
1. Transportation Facilities
Transportation facilities are the main causes of global warming in the tourism industry. In fact, about 49% of the emission is produced during travel. The most polluting means of transportation are airplanes(Fava, 2020).
Aviation is a major source of local air pollution, leading to significant public health impacts. Jet emissions can cause lung, throat, nasal, larynx and brain cancer, lymphoma, leukemia, asthma, and birth defects (Aviation Justice, ND).
Emissions from aviation are a significant contributor to climate change. Airplanes burn fossil fuel which not only releases CO2 emissions but also has strong warming non-CO2 effects due to nitrogen oxides, vapor trails and cloud formation triggered by the altitude at which aircraft operate. These non-CO2 effects contribute twice as much to global warming as aircraft CO2 and were responsible for two-thirds of aviation’s climate impact in 2018 (Transport & Environment, 2022).
These are followed by automobiles and motorcycles. Other means like tour busses, trains, and ferries have a lower impact based on a study. The recent economic growth of many countries has allowed more people in the world to travel. Millennials and Gen Z for instance would consider travelling a necessity hence they dominate the age range of world travelers. Among many positive consequences of travel, such as the increasing cultural exchange and the generated profit, lurks the danger of CO2 emissions thereby contributing to climate change (Fava, 2020).
2. Construction of Tourism Facilities and Energy Consumption
Among other areas with a high percentage of carbon emissions is construction of tourism hotels, attractions, and other infrastructures. During the construction process of a building, say for instance, the transportation and the manufacture of building materials are CO2-producing activities. On the other hand, facilities produce CO2 when their energy sources are not renewable. Obviously, large structures tend to have higher consumption rates than small ones, so they create more emissions. The service with the higher energy consumption rate is for sure air conditioning, followed by generic electric appliances, kitchen services, lighting, and computers. However, the real difference between the high or low environmental impact of a facility depends on its energy sources. Renewable sources, like solar energy, allows structures to be more efficient, as well as to limit CO2 emissions (Fava, 2020).
3. Food Consumption and Non-consumption
Two things happen here that contribute to climate change: food consumption and food wasted. According to a study, a quarter of carbon emissions worldwide are caused by the food production industry and a third of the food produced is wasted. Meaning, a third of the carbon emissions that cause climate change from the food industry are food that people simply wasted or did not consume. The solution to this problem is neither easy nor univocal, but one of its components is surely to avoid food waste. If food waste is lessened, food production can also be lessened. Everyone has the power to reduce his or her own food waste. Moreover, buying locally produced goods and avoiding imported ones can help reduce CO2 emission.
Global climate change has represented a massive challenge for society and the environment around the world and has strongly influenced the tourism sector’s investment, planning, operations, and demand and its future. According to experts, there are two challenges regarding climate change in the next 30 years: managing the carbon risk associated with the transition to a net-zero economy and managing the physical climate risks of unavoidable changes in climate (Scott, 2021). The tourism sector is strongly influencing and influenced by the climate change happening around the world. To strengthen the industry, all tourism players must concentrate on improved communications and knowledge mobilization, increased research capacity, and strategic policy and planning engagements. Action should be taken now to ensure control over the climate change happening in the world and governments of every country must have national policies and proper governance to achieve sustainable development goals for the tourism industry (Scott, 2021).
According to the World Economic Forum (2015), tourism is highly dependent on fossil fuels and is a significant contributor to climate change. Despite improved energy efficiency, absolute emissions from tourism continue to expand. This is because of strong growth in international tourism and increasing numbers of people travelling, as well as travel frequency and distance. If the tourism industry is to achieve even the high end of targets to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius, it needs to cut present emissions by up to 70% by 2050. The travel industry can do its share to reverse the effects of climate change but time is a crucial element. If governments and the private sector will not act in unison with each other then perhaps we all end up in peril (World Economic Forum, 2015).