Global warming looks set to change travelers’ plans

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Blue lagoon in the Maldives are in danger due to climate change. Source: Perart/Shutterstock

STUDIES warn that global warming could have a considerable impact on where and how we travel in the future unless action is taken soon to tackle the contributory factors and lower rising temperatures.

The temperature of the earth is rising at nearly twice the rate it was 50 years ago.  This is widely attributed to greenhouse gas emissions, the biggest culprit being carbon dioxide (CO₂).

According to the report, Climate Change and Tourism, the tourism industry is responsible for five percent of global CO₂ emissions. Of this, transportation accounts for 75 percent with aviation contributing the bulk (40 percent).

Accommodation is the second largest source (20 percent), with things like heating, lighting, and air conditioning all feeding the sector’s emissions.

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Palau Islands are at risk from rising sea levels. Source: BlueOrange Studio/Shutterstock

But tourism is both a contributor to the problem and a casualty of it, with global warming threatening growth and the stability of the economies that depend on it. Action to mitigate the risks is, therefore, a priority.

“The tourism sector must rapidly respond to climate change, within the evolving UN framework and progressively reduce its Greenhouse Gas (GHG) contribution if it is to grow in a sustainable manner,” the report said.

However, some experts argue that it is already too late to turn the tide on global warming. An article on GreenBiz.com published a leaked comment from a report produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC):

“Without additional mitigation, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts globally.”

Although released 2014, both its findings and the chilling warning remain relevant amidst growing reports that rather than stabilizing, temperatures continue to climb.

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The recent coral transplant on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef could be the start of rebuilding damaged coral reefs around the world. Source: Brian Kinney / Shutterstock.com

But what does all this mean for travelers?

The Climate Change and Tourism report suggests global warming could usher a shift in tourism seasons. Consequently, more of us may opt to vacation in winter months when the “climate will be more appealing.” Australia, New Zealand, and North America have all seen both summer and winter get warmer, something that could become more widespread in the future.

Globally, more regions are experiencing adverse weather. Southeast Asia, the Small Island Nations in the Pacific Ocean, Australia, and New Zealand alongside North and South America and the Caribbean, have all experienced an increase in “extreme events,” according to the report.

These phenomena not only devastate communities and the local environment but the infrastructure that supports tourism as well. For travelers, this can effectively render some places off-limits, the number of which will likely rise if, as predicted, these events become more common.

Parts of South Asia, including Rajasthan, may become uninhabitable if temperatures continue to rise. Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com

In some locations, this may be permanent. An article on The Hindu suggests that by the end of the century, heatwaves in certain parts of South Asia might rocket temperatures to levels that “exceed the threshold of human survivability.”

High temperatures also have consequences for air travel.  An article on Channel News Asia referenced a study published in the Journal for Climatic Change.  Its authors predict that worldwide, maximum daily temperatures at airports may increase between four and eight degrees by 2080. This presents a significant problem:

“As air warms, it thins and wings generate less lift. Depending on factors such as type of aircraft and runway length, a packed plane may be unable to take off safely if temperatures rise too high,” the article said.

This suggests that in years to come, travelers may suffer more flight disruption if planes are grounded until it is sufficiently cool. Greater weight restrictions on luggage and fewer passengers per flight could also be necessary, according to the study quoted – although many will likely welcome less crowded aircraft.

These are only some of the possible effects; experts predict many others. So, unless there is a significant change, travel might radically alter for us all, and we may spend our vacations quite differently in the future.