Climate Change And Tourism

Saving Our Global Destinations

Special to Globe and Mail Update

Bad weather can ruin a holiday. Global climate change can ruin a holiday destination. This is one of the urgent messages that delegates heard at an international conference on climate change, co-sponsored by the United Nations World Tourism Organization and other international bodies, in Davos, Switzerland, last month.

Tourism has been both a victim and a vector of global climate change. Iconic tourist destinations such as the Great Barrier Reef, the countries bordering on the Mediterranean Sea, the European Alps, the island states of the Seychelles, the Maldives and Mauritius, and the majestic glaciated mountain landscapes from the Rockies to the Andes have all become victims of the rise in global mean temperature of the past 150 years.

But the tourism sector has also become a non-negligible contributor to climate change through greenhouse-gas emissions largely from the transport and accommodation of tourists — as much as 5 per cent of all carbon dioxide emissions from human activities, according to the conference’s foundational paper, Climate Change and Tourism: Responding to Global Challenges. Under a “business as usual” scenario, emissions from the rapidly growing global tourism sector were projected to more than double in the next 30 years.

Tourism is highly dependant on climate, with weather affecting a wide range of the environmental resources that are critical attractions for tourism, such as snow conditions, wildlife productivity and biodiversity, water levels and quality. Tourists themselves have a high adaptive capacity to avoid destinations affected by climate change or to shift the timing of travel to avoid unfavourable climate conditions.

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