Tourism's carbon impact larger than estimated

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Tourism's carbon impact larger than estimated

August 03, 2018 - 17:21
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Travellers from affluent countries prime factor in tourism emission growth.

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A new study has revealed global tourism’s carbon footprint is three times larger than previously estimated. Published in the journal Nature Climate Change, the study examined global carbon flows between 160 countries between 2009 and 2013, revealing the total closer to be 8% of the global total. Driving the increase are visitors from affluent countries who travel to other wealthy destinations. The US tops the rankings followed by China, Germany and India.

Transport, shopping and food are significant contributors, with increased tourism demand outstripping the decarbonization of tourism-related technology. Due to its high carbon intensity and continuing growth, tourism will constitute an increasing part of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

"It definitely is eye opening," said study author Dr Arunima Malik from the University of Sydney. “We looked at really detailed information about tourism expenditure, including consumables such as food from eating out and souvenirs. We looked at the trade between different countries and also at greenhouse gas emissions data to come up with a comprehensive figure for the global carbon footprint for tourism."

Higher Footprint

While travel in the US, China, Germany and India was predominantly domestic, travellers from Canada, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Denmark exerted a much higher carbon footprint outside their own countries.

When richer people travel they tend to spend more on higher carbon transportation, food and pursuits said Dr Malik. “If you have visitors from high income countries then they typically spend heavily on air travel, on shopping and hospitality where they go to. But if the travellers are from low income countries then they spend more on public transport and unprocessed food, the spending patterns are different for the different economies they come from."

Tourism is a booming global industry worth over $7 trillion, employing one in ten workers worldwide with an annual growth rate of growth rate of 4%.

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