Edited by Dallen J. Timothy
Chapter 15: Prepared for take-off? Anthropogenic climate change and the global challenge of twenty-first-century tourism
Globalization, facilitated by population increase and technological development, has the potential to profoundly impact Earth’s resources and biodiversity if approached without caution. Increased travel, which is significantly related to tourism, has been both a cause and consequence of globalisation. Leisure travel has become increasingly frequent and accessible during the past half-century, and what was once a luxury available to some has become a deeply entrenched expectation of many. This acceleration of tourism has had many serious environmental consequences, including the exacerbation of anthropogenic climate change through the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Transport comprises around three-quarters of tourism-attributed emissions, and international tourists rely on carbon-intensive transport both within and between destinations. Emissions from the international aviation industry are almost entirely unregulated, and currently account for around 40% of all tourism emissions. Aviation’s contribution to GHG emissions is likely to continue to increase, especially if the industry continues to avoid responsibility through, for example, redirecting accountability to individual consumers in the form of voluntary, opaque carbon offsetting schemes. In this chapter, we critically discuss tourism, aviation, and climate change implications in relation to global and national governance. We frame 21st-century tourism as a multifaceted and unprecedented problem for the global environment, requiring a range of novel solutions. We evaluate international efforts to reduce tourist-generated greenhouse gas emissions, particularly in relation to aviation, and frame these as a litmus test for global governance under current market-based constraints. Ultimately, we argue that relying on individual consumers to curb tourist aviation emissions is a failed experiment, and that effective mitigation will rely on a fundamental ideological shift toward collective action and industry accountability.
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