Published on Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Global tourism's carbon footprint much larger than previously thought

Jetsetting tourists have been identified as larger contributors to global warming than previously thought.

Researchers in Australia say international tourism accounts for 8% of all global carbon emissions, which is several times more than previously estimated.

Tourism's biggest carbon footprint comes from international air travel and lead researcher Dr Ya-Yen Sun says it's time to reassess the industry's claims that it is environmentally 'low impact.'

As a still growing sector, it is likely to get worse, she said.

"Given that tourism is set to grow faster than many other economic sectors, the international community may consider its conclusion in the future in climate commitments such as the Paris Accord, by tying international flights to specific nations."

"Carbon taxes or carbon trading schemes - in particular for aviation - may be required to curtail unchecked future growth in tourism-related emissions."

Previously it was widely thought the tourism industry contributed no more than 3% of emissions.

The year-long study covers 160 countries and was published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Measures that result in a meaningful reduction of the environmental impact of air travel will undoubtedly mean a significant rise in the overall cost of air travel, it says.

"Our analysis is a world-first look at the true cost of tourism, including consumables such as food from eating out and souvenirs. It's a complete life-cycle assessment of global tourism, ensuring we don't miss any impacts," said co-researcher Dr Arunima Malik, of the University of Sydney.

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