International tourism and environmental change Essay Example

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Twofold impacts of International Tourism and Climate Change


The correlation between tourism and climate change is twofold, that is, change in climate affects tourism and tourism affect climate change. The effect of tourism on climate change is unevenly distributed over varied types of tourism. The core determining factors include: distance between tour points and tourists’ residence, mode of transport used, and duration of stay. Worldwide effect of tourism on climate change lies between 4% and 10%, but it this figure can go as high as 20% in developed countries. Tourism entails various elements that donate to various degrees of climate change, such as carbon dioxide, construction, air-conditioning, and heating. These elements contribute to increase in temperature of the atmosphere of the earth causing green house effect (global warming). This paper will analyze the contribution of international tourism to climate change, and the impacts of climate change on the international tourism for the next ten years (Scott, Hall, & Gossling, 2012).

Contribution of International Tourism on Climate Change

Green House Effect

When sunlight strikes the surface of the earth, the involved energy is either reflected back to the atmosphere or absorbed by earth’s surface. The absorbed energy makes the earth to produce some energy back into the atmosphere (known as infrared radiation). The green house gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and water vapor absorb this energy preventing or reducing loss of heat to the space. As a result of that, the greenhouse gases work as a blanket making the earth warmer than it should be(Reddy & Wilkes, 2012).

International tourism- related activities such as accommodation, deforestation, and transportation have contributed to increasing concentration of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide and methane gases. About 75 % of tourism emissions are created by transportation, whereby air transport donates 50 %, that is, air transport contributes 40% of all tourism emissions. Accommodation contributes 21 % and other remaining tourism events take a share of 4 %. International tourism contributes about 5% of worldwide. According to Beechen & Hay (2012), carbon dioxide emissions generated by tourism related activities have contributed to about 4.6 % of global warming.

Carbon dioxide is the main cause of Green house gas emission, as it is responsible for most radioactive forcing. This carbon oxide is released by human activities and it is responsible for increasing the atmospheric temperature. Carbon dioxide produced at accommodation places is related to activities like heating, cooling, washing, cooking, running bars and restaurants, air- conditioning, maintenance of pools, and so forth. The amount of carbon dioxide generated from these facilities depends on the size of accommodation, location of the accommodation, and the type of establishment, for instance, hotels exhibit higher consumption rate of energy and produce green house gases than camping sites and pensions(Star, 2001). Transportation of tourists from their residences to tour sites and other destinations by use of coach, train, aircraft, cable cars, ferry, car, aircraft, and et cetera generate a lot of carbon dioxide. The transport sector consisting of rail, car, and air constitutes 75% of total emissions. The rail and air take 13% at 54%- 75% of carbon emissions respectively (Reddy & Wilkes, 2012). Air transport is regarded as the core tourism donor of global warming because it contributes about 40% of total carbon emissions, as well as 54 to 75% of radioactive forcing. On top of that, other tourism activities such as theme parks, museums shopping, discos, and others contribute only 3.5% of carbon emission (Reddy & Wilkes, 2012).

Nitrous oxide gas is also another green house gas produced as a result of international tourism activities such as fuel burning, natural biological processes, and waste water management. The tourist transport systems such as cars, trucks, and air craft are the basic producers of nitrous oxide. The amount of nitrous oxide emitted is determined by the amount of fuel used, technology of craft or vehicle, maintenance, and practices of operation. Nitrous oxide gas can stay in the atmosphere for about 120 years before it is removed by a sink, or eliminated through a chemical reaction. In addition to global warming, this gas reacts with rain water to form acidic rain, which is corrosive (Scott, Hall, & Gossling, 2012). Black carbon released from tourism vehicles, air craft, accommodation, and from other leisure activities contribute to atmospheric warming. Black carbon absorbs the incoming and reflected sunlight, as well as infrared radiation. In addition to that, back carbon deposited on snow and ice, increases their rate of heat absorption causing ice melting (Beechen & Hay, 2012). Other vehicle and air craft products such as sulfates reflect sunlight causing cooling. Aerosols for cooling and warming react with clouds causing changes to the cloud attributes such as dissipation, precipitation rates, formation, and reflectivity. These clouds cause cooling by reflecting sunlight, and cause warming by absorbing the outgoing sunlight (Beechen & Hay, 2012).

Impact of Climate change on International Tourism

Increase in temperature as a result of global warming, some places become hotter than others. This leads to creation of temperature differences, and consequently different pressure regions. The differences in pressure enhances occurrence of cyclones and hurricanes. Wherever these actions occur, tourists are reluctant to choosing them as their tour sites, and a result, such places will experience poor economic performance on the perspective of tourism industry (Scott, Hall, & Gossling, 2012).

Global warming and deposition of black carbon on ice and snow stimulates melting of ice from mountain peaks. This implies that as tourism activities continue, global warming and carbon deposition on ice and snow will continue to cause melting, and the glaciers will be reducing and disappearing. Therefore, for the next ten years, tourism attraction to ice-capped mountains and glaciations areas is likely to reduce drastically, thus, affecting the economy of the respective countries. Besides that, as ice and snow continue to reduce from the mountain peaks, tectonic balance will be lost causing earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis, and volcanic eruption. Apart from causing fear to tourists, these activities will damage transport and communication systems, buildings, sewage system, water, and electricity that are used by tourists (Bigano, Tol, & Hamiliton, 2007). Due to global warming, the associated rise in temperature may influence droughts in future and the concerned countries may become deserts. On top of that, most of flora and fauna cannot tolerate high temperatures; therefore, they may migrate or die. The result of all these occurrences is that tourism attraction will decrease, or cease to happen because deserts rarely attract tourist, and the lack of flora and fauna may discourage tourists (Bigano, Tol, & Hamiliton, 2007).

Temperature increase in some countries like northern Europe and Canada also has a major impact in tourism owing to the fact that it aids in attracting tourists and settlers. The number of avalanches will increase and skiing activities will go down since places used for such activities will no longer be functional, thus, such places will not be attracting tourists. Therefore there will be a shift in tourism industry. Contrary to this, countries like Italy, Greece, and Spain will be too hot to inhabit comfortably. Currently, these countries have well developed tourism industries because of their comfortable climate. But, countries such as Canada, Sweden, Great Britain, and Norway are likely to develop a booming tourism industry in future. This shows a shift in tourism resources between Caribbean countries and Mediterranean countries as dictated by climate change (Lise & Tol, 2002).

Melting of mountain ice contributes to rise in sea-levels, which will make the surrounding dry lands and islands to be submerged. As a consequence, tourism attraction features will be submerged, as well as accommodation, communication, and transportation facilities. This will call for migration of the residents, as well as discouraging tourists from visiting such places. An example of this is the rising ocean water in Kiribati that is already damaging costal roads and crops (Bigano, Tol, & Hamiliton, 2007). International tourism has a great contribution to the economic performance of most countries. In fact, it is the world’s largest income generating business. It creates employment opportunities both at local and internal levels. Therefore, change in climate will discourage this industry in some parts of the world, the consequences of which will be loss of jobs and increase in poverty level (Lise & Tol, 2002). Unpredictable global weather condition such as rainfall patterns will make tourists, tour guides and outfitters to be frustrated as their activities might be hindered. In addition to that, increase in temperature will create favorable environments for malaria-bearing mosquitoes that will impact potential tourists (Lise & Tol, 2002). Seaside resorts and beaches will be submerged by rising sea levels. The rising sea water will cause beach erosion, flooding, and water contamination (Lise & Tol, 2002).


In conclusion, international tourism has contributed immensely to climate change. Greater emphasis has been put on green house effect and global warming as the consequences of international tourism activities. International tourism activities such as transportation and accommodation release green house gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide which cause global warming. Global warming can impact international tourism through modification of climatic conditions.


Beechen, S. & Hay, J. 2012.Climate Change and Tourism: From Policy to Practice (Tourism Environment and Development). London: Routledge.

Bigano, A. Tol, R. & Hamiliton. J. 2007.The impact of Climate change on domestic and International Tourism: Integrated Assessment Journal, 7(1): 25-49.

Lise, W. & Tol, R.2002.Impact of Climate on tourism demand: Climate Change, 55(4): 429- 449

Reddy, M. V. & Wilkes, K. 2012.Tourism, Climate Change and Sustainability. London: Routledge.

Scott, D., Hall, M. & Gossling, S. 2012. Tourism and Climate Change: Impacts, Adaptation and Mitigation (Contemporary Geographies of Leisure, Tourism and Mobility).London: Routledge.

Star, N. 2001. Exploring the World: Geography for Travel Professionals. Framingham: Institute of Certified Travel.