Tourism: Impacts on Climate and Resources

Tourism: Impacts on Climate and Resources

Once upon a time, before taking a pleasant trip in the mountains, one consulted geographical maps and weather forecasts, and one was well equipped. Today, tourists venture along the trails while browsing social media and often wear inappropriate shoes and clothing. This seems to emerge from testimonies of the management of the National Alpine Rescue Team of the CAI (Italian Alpine Club) collected from the site Sherpa Gate, which predict an increasing number of injuries and deaths, and significant impacts on nature. The same can be said for the sea, just think of the huge amount of cigarette butts and other waste found on many beaches. But what are the effects of tourism on the environment?

What is the impact of tourism on the increase in greenhouse gases?

This year, more than 954 million tourists have arrived at a destination, with an average of 45 arrivals every second. According to the World Bank every year total tourists I am Almost a billion and a half. In 1950 there were 25 million people, and by 2030 it could reach 1.8 billion. On the other hand, although it is difficult to count them, the number of eco-tourists is about one hundred million annually (but we will not talk about them here).

These large masses of people and all the industries behind them cannot help but be born Effects Climate negativity, in light of the current global economy rich in fossil fuels. In particular, tourism is responsible for 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with transportation covering almost all the contribution. And depending on how much mentioned By the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), without making the ecological transition, “until 2050, tourism will generate a 154% increase in energy consumption, 131% in greenhouse gas emissions, 152% in water consumption, and 251% in global ». Solid waste disposal.

As for the means of transportation used in tourism, it is a cruise emitted On average, nine times more than a transatlantic flight, with emissions per passenger between 1.2 and 9 tons of carbon dioxide.2 in a trip. However, between 1990 and 2019 are the emissions from international aviation 146% increase. As Energy Monitor writes, among other things, tourist overcrowding is a big problem, considering that 80% of tourists go on vacation to 10% of destinations, and this applies not only to the sea and mountains, but also to cities, such as Venice, Barcelona, ​​Amsterdam, Prague and others were particularly affected.

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in instructions The European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS, which provides independent scientific information and analysis to the European Parliament), states that the hospitality sector is responsible for 20% of all emissions, taking into account heating and air conditioning, and the maintenance of bars and restaurants. swimming pools and so on.

The effects of tourism on natural resources

Tourism activities also cause impacts on the consumption of various natural resources, water, soil, minerals and metals, leading to the production of solid waste, wastewater and loss of biodiversity.

to BarcelonaFor example, 38% of the catch of fishing vessels is waste; The city has one of the highest rates of plastic waste generation; It is also vulnerable to noise pollution because 82% of tourists arrive by plane (there will also be high-speed trains from France, but the latter has not completed the railway line in the Pyrenees, according to the Energy Observatory). We have already mentioned cruises, and in Barcelona they are responsible for almost 30% of the NOx present.

With regard to water consumption, it is EPRS extension She says that «the estimates of the International Committee for the Protection of the Alps (CIPRA). […] Nearly one million liters of water are needed to make artificial snow on a one-hectare ski slope.” For a 54-hectare 18-hole golf course, between 300,000 and 1 million cubic meters per year would be needed. Furthermore, compared to the average resident, it is estimated that a tourist consumes on average at least 3 times more water per day, and this is a problem for tourist areas that also suffer from periods of drought, such as the provinces of Alicante, Murcia and Almería: the East will lack Spain to “at least 400 million cubic meters of water per year.”

The disproportionality in water consumption also applies to waste: for example, a tourist in Malta produces 1.25 kg of waste per day compared to 0.68 kg for a resident; Islands in particular are among the most difficult places to manage the disposal of excess waste. Wastewater is also a problem, both in terms of public health and in terms of biodiversity. According to Oceana, an organization that fights to protect the oceans, cruise ships release 95,000 cubic meters of wastewater from toilets and 5,420,000 cubic meters of wastewater from docks every day into the oceans, seas, galleys and showers.

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We mentioned cigarette butts for beaches: considering the economic aspect alone, it should be taken into account that cleaning the coasts from waste could cost about 630 million euros annually. This is not a matter of environmental transformation, but of simple civilization (there are pocket ashtrays). The same applies to the mountain, which, as we said at the beginning, is good to go to in a conscious way (yes look here For example, the rules of conduct that must be observed in the Monte Sibillini National Park: it is not actually possible to enter with dogs, make bonfires, camp or leave the path (we will talk about this when it comes to protected areas). As for the mountains, in the Alps, which receive 120 million tourists annually, 84% of holiday trips are made by car: “The valleys suffer greatly from air and sound pollution caused by motorized road transport, which is greatly exacerbated by the topography of the area. Alps”.


The effect of hot weather on tourism

“Southern Europe this summer was less Barbie and more Oppenheimer” writes bloomberg About the extreme heat that hit the Mediterranean countries this summer. “Days with mid-afternoon temperatures above 30°C are 2.7 times more frequent in Athens, 3.7 times more likely in Barcelona, ​​8.1 times more likely in Paris, and 10.4 times more likely in London. All of these cities are close to the sea, so It’s no wonder that even the most popular summer beach destinations — such as France’s Côte d’Azur and Martha’s Vineyard — have been considerably warmer in recent years than they were in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The word “tourism” was mentioned 672 times in the Volume II From the latest IPCC report on the impacts of climate change. For example, we read that “the Australian ski industry is very sensitive to climate change, due to reduced snow depths and a longer snow season.” But also “the 2019-2020 summer fires had an impact on tourism and travel infrastructure, affecting air quality.” The tourism experience in New Zealand’s South Island has been affected by the increased risk of rockslides, caused by the retreat of nearly 700 meters since 2008 on the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers. In addition, footpaths, shelters and bridges were damaged by flooding along New Zealand’s west coast, resulting in popular destinations such as “Hooker Glacier and the popular Routeburn and Heaphy trails being closed during heavy rain.”

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In Europe, damage to the European ski industry is expected. In particular, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that with global warming of 2 degrees Celsius, “low-altitude sites without snow are likely to cease activity,” and with global warming of 3 degrees Celsius, even Artificial snow is always sufficient. The ski lifts themselves are at risk due to deteriorating permafrost.

Skiing is also taking a hit in North America, where the tourist season is cut by as much as 17 days in record warm winters and profits are down 33 percent, or about $45 million. The IPCC went on to write that “30% of hotels along the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea are vulnerable to flooding and 66% of them are located on eroding beaches.” Coral reef cover in Akumal Bay, Mexico, declined by 79% between 2011 and 2014..


A chart from the IPCC report shows how mountain-related tourism is the most at-risk sector in North America.

Nevertheless, American flair for business has produced a new form of tourism, sometimes horrific and sometimes sad: “last chance” tourism. Although the risk of collisions between private Arctic yachts (poorly regulated compared to other vessels) is higher in the ice, voyages to Arctic regions have been increased by exploiting the increasing melting of glaciers. The goal is to monitor local animals “before they become extinct.” This is the case with polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba, and Canada, for example. In the Arctic, demand for cruises “has increased by 20.5% in the past five years and led to 27.2 million passengers in 2018.” In Antarctica, this type of tourism has become the largest economic activity in the region, receiving 75,000 visitors in the biennium 2019-2020.

Although an economic response to climate impacts on tourism is also needed, it is legitimate to believe that these are not the only possibilities. But we will definitely talk about what needs to be done to reduce the impacts that tourism causes and receives.

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