A new study says global tourism accounts for 8% of carbon emissions, around three times greater than previous estimates. The new assessment is bigger because it includes emissions from travel, plus the full life-cycle of carbon in tourists’ food, hotels and shopping. 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. Tourism is a huge and booming global industry worth over $7 trillion, and employs one in ten workers around the world. It’s growing at around 4% per annum. Previous estimates of the impact of all this travel on carbon suggested that tourism accounted for 2.5-3% of emissions.
However in what is claimed to be the most comprehensive assessment to date, this new study examines the global carbon flows between 160 countries between 2009 and 2013. It shows that the total is closer to 8% of the global figure. As well as air travel, the authors say they have included an analysis of the energy needed to support the tourism system, including all the food, beverage, infrastructure construction and maintenance as well as the retail services that tourists enjoy.
“It definitely is eye opening,” Dr Arunima Malik from the University of Sydney, who’s the lead author of the study, told BBC News. “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.” The researchers also looked at the impacts in both the countries where tourists came from and where they travelled. They found that the most important element was relatively well off people from affluent countries travelling to other well to do destinations.
The report highlights one of the negative aspects of tourism, namely its effect on carbon emissions and global warming. In Cornwall, it has other environmental impacts leading to traffic congestion and social impacts such as using housing resources for holiday use rather than residential use. Tourism is also a major driver of population growth in Cornwall.
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