Tourism has a large ecological footprint, which also grows every year. Both the earth’s natural habitats and the entire climate are affected by how we travel. For example, a new study estimates that tourism accounts for around eight percent of global climate emissions if you look at everything from transport to souvenirs.
Most of the debate about climate and traveling circuits naturally for flight. The reason is that air travel is one of the individual activities that gives the greatest climate emissions. About three to four percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions are caused by aviation. But that is not the whole truth – since emissions are at a high altitude directly in the atmosphere, they have a greater impact, and in addition, the aircraft emits more greenhouse gases than just carbon dioxide. Of course, this needs to be taken into account and then the climate impact of aviation is estimated to be about twice as high.
The fact that it appears that aviation accounts for a small proportion of global emissions is also due to the fact that there is a small minority on earth flying.
But it is not just air travel that needs to reduce its emissions – cruises are also often a really dirty story.
Unlike other sectors, which overall reduce their emissions, emissions from travel increase sharply.
Already today, climate change is affecting many people’s living conditions and livelihoods, especially in particularly vulnerable low- and middle-income countries.
It is often heard that “aviation accounts for only a few percents of carbon dioxide emissions” as an argument that reducing flight is not so important. But then you have calculated about half of the climate’s impact on the air. There is also another objection to that argument: the justice aspect.
Only 2-3 percent of the world’s population fly regularly. The other 97-98 percent never fly, or very rarely. Thus, it is a very small click of travelers in rich countries who account for all emissions. This is in line with Oxfam’s estimate that the richest ten percent in the world accounts for half of the global emissions, while the poorest half of the world’s population caused only ten percent of the emissions – but are most severely affected by the climate crisis.
On average, wealthy countries’ inhabitants fly more than five times as much as the global average.
New aircrafts are more fuel-efficient, which in itself is good, but those fuel savings are unfortunately eaten up by increased flying.
Mixing biofuels is a step in the right direction, but producing and burning biofuels also affects the climate. In addition, the dual climate impact at high altitude does not disappear when using biofuel. We have also limited the cultivation land on earth and the production of biofuel for pleasure trips must be weighed against the need for food for the entire population of the world. A combination of better technology, better fuel and reduced flying is needed. Not either-or.
Today, work is underway to make aviation take responsibility for and pay for its global climate impact. The Chicago Convention of 1944, as well as thousands of bilateral aviation agreements, have long made it very cheap for aviation to release greenhouse gases.
You can make a difference!
- Choose climate-smart transportation. The train is a good alternative.
- If you fly – do it less often and stay away longer. Avoid cruise tourism.
- When booking accommodation, ask about their environmental work.
- There are labels of hotels both in terms of environment and working conditions. If possible, choose such a hotel.
- If you notice on site that the hotel does not seem to be draining or sorting garbage, the fact that you are actually pointing it out may be the starting point for change.
- Don’t forget the small simple choices like eating more vegetarian, keeping up with the water and avoiding unnecessary junk.
- Eating at the local restaurant, shopping for fruits and vegetables in the market and making sure that the souvenirs and clothing you possibly buy are nicely produced in the country provides a boost to the local economy, while reducing environmental impact.