Carbon Emissions and Adventure Travel
Reconciling the Evils of Carbon Emissions with the Benefits of Adventure Travel
Posted on 23.08.2018
People working in adventure travel are passionate about its advantages over other forms of tourism for many reasons: It can provide meaning and satisfaction to travelers who enjoy engaging and enlightening experiences, and it can serve as a mechanism to preserve wildlife and nature. For businesses in areas lacking economic opportunity, it can offer a path to greater financial security. And yet, one hard fact about adventure travel is that it often involves long-haul air travel, which contributes significantly to global carbon emissions and climate change. Recently, researchers studying the impact of air travel on carbon emissions estimated tourism’s global carbon footprint accounts for about 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
While some travelers might say they plan to travel less in light of the carbon impacts, the overwhelming trend in tourism is for continued expansion. The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) notes tourism’s direct growth of 4.6 percent is outpacing the global economy in 2018 for the seventh successive year. Adventure travel businesses report growth year after year, with the majority of business owners saying the driving factor behind that growth is new customers. Tourism growth can have many positive benefits, and yet the problem of air travel emissions is inescapable. With this in mind, it is worthwhile to weigh adventure travel’s benefits against the negative implications it has for global emissions.
First, consider how tourism participates in the overall energy system. Tourism uses a few of the big offenders when it comes to carbon emissions — not only airplanes but also ships (small ships for expedition cruising and ocean liners) and cars. Replacing the current oil- and gas-powered equipment with planes, ships, and cars fueled by renewable energy will take time.
In a series of recent lectures, David Hone, author of Putting the Genie Back, described “seven big steps forward” needed to protect the earth’s climate:
- Change of consumer mindset;
- Energy efficiency;
- Carbon pricing;
- Electrification of final energy;
- Growth of new energy systems;
- Carbon capture and storage;
- End of deforestation.
Who will insist on the sweeping changes needed? Who will vote for the laws that will bring about these changes? It will have to be consumers pushing for these changes. Activating these people to care enough to demand a move away from an energy system powered by fossil fuels — demanding carbon neutrality and carbon negative activities — is at the heart of the vast array of changes that must be made.
Adventure businesses and guides have a unique opportunity to be part of a global shift in consumer mindset through the experiences they provide. The experiences travelers have in nature, with wildlife, and through interactions with people who live differently are grand opportunities for awakening and change. Of course, adventure businesses already know this.
… the positive effects of adventure travel outweigh the negative aspects. Adventure travel can bring about the consumer awareness and behavioral changes necessary to spur a global energy transition, and, along the way, provide deep economic benefits at the grassroots level …
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