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Carbon Footprint Caused By Global Tourism Is Harmful For The Environment, 4 Times Higher Than Previous Estimates

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Global tourism is on the rise, and it is not good for the environment. A new study shows for the first time global tourism being measured as a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

The number of greenhouse gases produced by tourism now exceeds previous estimates.

Global Tourism's Carbon Footprint

New research conducted by Integrated Sustainability Analysis from the University of Sydney found that global tourism produces four times the greenhouse gas emissions than previously estimated. Global tourism includes air flights, car rentals, lodging, and the shopping done by tourists while traveling. Researchers focused on the period between 2009 and 2013, which saw tourism's carbon footprint grow.

Prior to the study, carbon emissions related to tourism had not been measured accurately. Now, scientists were able to trace the carbon flows in 160 countries, going as far as tracing the carbon footprint from the origin to the destination. They found that between 2009 and 2013 the carbon footprint grew from 3.9 to GtCO2-e. GtCO2-e stands for gigatonnes of equivalent carbon dioxide.

Previous studies found that global tourism accounted for 3 percent of all greenhouse emissions but it turns out that travel actually accounted for 9 percent of all global greenhouse emissions.

Researchers found that people from richer countries are driving the increase of the greenhouse gas emissions. At the top of the list were the United States, China, Germany, and India. In these countries, most of the travel done was domestic. Meanwhile, people from Canada, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Denmark have a higher carbon footprint when they travel than when they are in their own countries.

The study was published in the journal Nature Climate Change.  

Recommendations For Global Tourism

In the study, the authors made recommendations to offset the damage being done by traveling. Researchers suggest that financial and technical assistance should be offered to combat the change in greenhouse emissions. They say that this rise most affects winter sports, higher sea levels in low-lying islands, and pollution in vulnerable destinations.

Some recommendations by the study include calling for less travel, staying closer to home when traveling, and paying carbon offset.

Co-author of the study Ya-Sen Sun said that paying carbon could help the slow process of changing the behavior of travelers. Researchers estimated that carbon tax would be $425 for a round-trip flight from Sydney to London. They do acknowledge that while this benefits the planet, this could change who gets to travel and how much it would cost to offset carbon emissions in the future. 

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