We All Need to Know How Tourism Impacts Climate Change

By Nicolas Rontanini


It’s no surprise that with recent events, like the record-breaking heat wave this past summer, destruction tornadoes and increased coastal storms, the topic of climate change has become a focal point in the media and the political landscape. While issues like transportation- burning fossil fuels are known to contribute to climate change in some way, there is another area people might not think of: tourism. When the pandemic hit, tourism was effectively shut down, but now, it’s beginning to make a comeback.

When we look at the relationship between climate change and tourism, we see significant adverse effects. The industry is linked to roughly 8 percent of global carbon emissions, as well as natural areas becoming both degraded and overdeveloped, according to the “Guardian.” This is likely from road or air travel. Many people deny the human influence on climate change, but scientists saw significant changes due to quarantining. During the peak of the pandemic, carbon emissions noticed a steady decline and wildlife flourished. For example, a type of turtle in Thailand called the leatherback turtle laid more eggs than they had in two decades.

With this information on its own, it’s easy to see the negatives in regards to tourism. However, the full scope of its relationship with climate change can’t be seen without the larger context.

While tourism can degrade natural areas, it can also lend a form of awareness to these issues, like problems with bleaching of the coral reefs, and species at risk of becoming extinct. What tourism, more specifically, the lack of it, has taught us is that the economics of it can be beneficial to many people. Conservation efforts are assisted with tourism-generating funds for them. It even brings about economic help for the areas visited, which might have other forms of industry, as stated by an article in the “Guardian.” The article also noted that the lack of tourism during the pandemic affected areas like developing countries, which saw families having difficulty with getting food and a rise in poaching.

There is a complicated relationship underlying tourism and climate change. One affects the other and vice versa. We’ve all heard of the disasters that have taken place over the last few months, like countless wildfires and rising sea levels. The negatives associated here are significant, but we have already seen the adverse side effects created by tourism’s halt. The positives are significant in their right, but tourism has contributed to a growly dangerous problem. With every extreme weather event thus far, could tourism see its end?

Well, no, climate change won’t be the end of the industry. However, this isn’t to mean there won’t be complications. Tourism often relies on places like coasts, areas of natural beauty. Many of these are affected by the changes in weather, like the Himalayan mountains growing more hazardous as the snow and glaciers continue to melt and beaches on low-lying islands getting destroyed as a result of rising sea levels, according to “Time” magazine.

Tourism will likely not end, but if you plan to travel somewhere, it might be beneficial to consider the impacts on the climate. It might be easy to want to stop traveling all together, but you don’t have to jump there. This is a complicated situation and answers can be as well. While that is true, hopefully the information I’ve provided can help you as you decide for yourself.


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