The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Tourism Responsible for 8% of Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Study Finds
By Daisy Dunne
Worldwide tourism accounted for 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions from 2009 to 2013, new research finds, making the sector a bigger polluter than the construction industry.
The study, which looks at the spending habits of travelers in 160 countries, shows that the impact of tourism on global emissions could be four times larger than previously thought.
The findings suggest that tourism could threaten the achievement of the goals of the Paris agreement, a study author told Carbon Brief.
However, the results may still be underestimating the total carbon footprint of tourism, another scientist told Carbon Brief, because they do not consider the impact of non-CO2 emissions from the aviation industry.
The global tourism industry is rapidly expanding. Fueled by falling air travel prices and a growing global middle class, the number of international holiday-makers is currently growing at a rate of 3-5 percent per year.
The new study, published in Nature Climate Change, explores how the recent growth of global tourism has impacted greenhouse gas emissions.
Tourists contribute to climate change in a number of ways—through travel by air, rail and road, for example, and by consuming goods and services, such as food, accommodation and souvenirs.
For the new analysis, the researchers considered all of these factors together in order to calculate tourism's "global carbon footprint," explained study author Dr. Arunima Malik, a lecturer in sustainability from the University of Sydney. She told Carbon Brief:
"Our analysis is comprehensive and, hence, takes into account all the upstream supply chains to quantify the impacts of tourist spending on food, clothing, transport and hospitality."
The research finds that, between 2009 and 2013, tourism's annual global carbon footprint increased from 3.9 to 4.5bn tonnes of CO2 equivalent.
This figure is four times higher than previous estimates and accounts for 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, the research finds. The rise is largely driven by an increased demand for goods and services—rather than air travel, the research finds.
The chart below shows the carbon footprint of individual purchased commodities related to tourism in 2013.
However, it is important to note that the study did not consider the impact of aviation's non-CO2 emissions, such as contrails, said Prof. Stefan Gössling, a tourism researcher from Linnaeus University in Sweden, who was not involved in the study. This means the study may have underestimated the total emissions from aviation, he told Carbon Brief:
"Notably, the non-CO2 warming effects from aviation, which, calculated for a given year, make aviation twice or three times as climate-relevant, are not even considered in this paper."
Travelers and Destinations
The new study draws on data taken from 160 countries. For each country, the researchers calculated the total amount of emissions caused by its own citizens going on holiday ("residence emissions") and as a result of tourists visiting the country ("destination emissions").
Looking specifically at resident emissions, the research finds that the U.S. has the largest carbon footprint of any country, followed by China, Germany and India.
This is shown on the chart below, which displays the total carbon footprint in 2013 for international (blue) and domestic (yellow) holidays taken by each country's residents.
Total residence-based accounting (RBA) carbon footprint in CO2e for different countries in 2013 for international (blue) and domestic (yellow) holidays. Lenzen et al. (2018)
The results show that domestic travel accounts for a large proportion of residence emissions in the U.S. and China. This is likely to reflect the tendency of U.S. and Chinese citizens to holiday within their own country, the researchers say.
Looking at destination emissions (the average carbon footprint per traveller once they arrive on their holiday), the researchers find that small islands, such as the Maldives, Mauritius and Cyprus, tend to have the highest international emissions.
This means that people choosing to holiday on these small islands are causing more emissions than those taking domestic trips. These emissions are likely to be related to a demand for private travel and luxurious goods and services, such as upmarket restaurants, hotels and shops, the researchers say.
The results are shown on the chart below, which displays the carbon footprints for destination countries per person in 2013 for international (blue) and domestic (yellow) holidays.
Per capita destination-based accounting (DBA) carbon footprint in CO2e for different countries in 2013 for international (blue) and domestic (yellow) holidays. Lenzen et al. (2018)
The results also suggest that the tourism carbon footprint of many countries, such as Germany and New Zealand, is primarily being driven by domestic trips, said study author Dr. Ya-Yen Sun, a senior lecturer in tourism at the University of Queensland. He told Carbon Brief:
"Total domestic travel consumption is much higher than the total inbound tourism consumption in Germany and New Zealand. This is quite common for most countries—domestic travel against international travel is probably at the ratio of 10:1."
The researchers also calculated the "net" carbon footprints of each country by taking the difference between residence and destination emissions. By doing this, the impacts of domestic travel are cancelled out and the resulting balance reflects only international travel.
The chart below shows the net carbon footprints for a range of countries in 2013, on a per person basis. On the chart, countries with a net footprint close to zero are not shown.
Net balance between "resident" (RBA) and "destination" (DBA) emissions (CO2e) for different countries in 2013. Countries with a balance close to zero are omitted from the chart. Lenzen et al. (2018)
The results show that people from Canada, the Netherlands and Denmark can be considered "net travelers"—meaning that their carbon footprint in other countries far exceeds that of other tourists in their own country.
In contrast, people from the Maldives, Seychelles and Mauritius are "net hosts"—meaning they "shoulder much higher footprints from their visitors than they exert elsewhere," the paper notes.
First Class Travel?
The analysis also shows that richer nations tend to have larger tourism-related footprints than poorer ones.
About half of the total global footprint of tourism from 2009-13 was driven by travel between countries with a per person gross domestic product (GDP) of more than $25,000, the research shows. In the UK, the GDP per person is just under $40,000 (£29,000).
Projections suggest that world's average GDP will increase from $10,750 per year in 2017 to $13,210 per year in 2022. As the world gets richer, its tourism carbon footprint is likely to grow larger, the research suggests.
Using models of financial growth, the researchers find that tourism's carbon footprint could reach 5-6.5bn tonnes of COeq by 2025. This figure would account for roughly 12 percent of current greenhouse gas emissions.
Much of this growth could be driven by continued economic growth in less developed countries, Sun said:
"Travel activity is largely determined by income level and the total outbound number is also influenced by the sheer population size. For developing countries that embrace rapid economic development with a growing population, they are very likely to change from net destinations to net origins [for tourists]."
One finding of the new research is that those traveling far to partake in "ecotourism" holidays may be causing more harm to the environment than they believe, Sun said:
"One main problem with ecotourism is that it cannot help to address emissions associated with long-haul travel, which is a key factor to the overall trip carbon footprint. For example, a UK visitor flying all the way to Indonesia to engage with ecotourism will produce more emissions than locals with regular domestic travel.
"Thus, one key step to be low-carbon travel is to fly less, choose destinations that are close to home and pay to offset carbon emissions."
Decision-makers should also play a role in limiting the growth of global tourism, he added, possibly by introducing a carbon tax on international travel:
"[Policymakers should] support carbon taxes or carbon-trading schemes to encourage the speed of technology development of airline industries and other transportation sectors."
Paris in Peril
The findings suggest that tourism could threaten the achievement of the Paris climate goals, the scientists say in their research paper:
"At least 15% of global tourism-related emissions are currently under no binding reduction target as emissions of international aviation and bunker shipping are excluded from the Paris Agreement. In addition, the US, the most significant source of tourism emissions, does not support the Agreement."
Imposing stricter regulations on aviation and shipping could be key to tackling tourism-related emissions, Sun said:
"[Policymakers should] incorporate emissions of international aviation and bunker shipping in targets such as those most recently drawn up under the Paris Agreement."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Carbon Brief.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.