Tourism in a Warmer World: The Travel Industry Is Taking Climate Change Very Seriously Indeed. Christian Amodeo Reports from the First International Conference on Climate Change and Tourism, Held in Djerba, Tunisia

Article excerpt

Climate change, it is said, is set to cause widespread misery. Predictions suggest that worldwide an additional 170 million people will be severely water stressed by 2050. For some time now, scientists and NGOs have been warning of the dangers of global warming. And recently politicians and business leaders have begun to express their concern. Many would argue that the tourism industry--one of the world's fastest growing--has a particular responsibility, and in April this year, it joined the debate at the First International Conference on Climate Change and Tourism in Djerba, Tunisia.

Convened by the World Tourism Organisation (WTO), the conference covered both climate change's impact on tourism and tourism's contribution to climate change. Although terrorism and war threaten to disrupt the industry, these are relatively insignificant next to the threat of climate change. "Despite recent problems," said WTO secretary-general Francesco Frangialli, "we should not lose sight of the long-term concerns, which include poverty and the warming of the planet."

The delegates--from 42 countries--included travel industry representatives and scientists whose work involves the study of climate change. Experts from UN bodies, the private sector and NGOs delivered 26 presentations over the course of two intensive days, with the discussion focusing on assessing and explaining climate change, its potential impact upon various regions and policy and mitigation issues.

Regardless of the controversy surrounding mankind's responsibility for climate change, it is now generally accepted that it is happening. But as Graham Todd of Travel Research International reflected, "The nature of change over the next 100 years is open to debate."

Catch flight 22

There seems to be a fundamental contradiction in promoting tourism and combating greenhouse emissions. After all, tourism's growth is largely dependent upon air travel, which causes the majority of tourism-related pollution. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), aviation produces 3.5 per cent of global warming from human activities, a figure expected to rise to 15 per cent within 50 years. …