Climate change has led to major shifts in our environment. From rising sea levels and warming oceans to disappearing coral reefs and scrambling wildlife, news about the declining state of our climate has become hard to avoid. Scientists claim that human-induced warming has exacerbated its natural occurrence, leading to adverse effects on some of Earth’s most traveled places. In Australia, for instance, the Great Barrier Reef has suffered warmer water temperatures that cause a bleaching effect, killing the coral.
Sargassum blooms are threatening beaches in tropical climates, namely countries in the Caribbean. The smelly seaweed washing up on Caribbean shores largely deters tourists and fish alike. Despite the toll that the effects of climate change have taken on the Dominican Republic, efforts are being made to rescue the eastern coasts from seaweed. While such devastating news may lead you to believe that your travel plans could be disrupted in the future, we haven’t reached that point yet. However, keeping an eye out for perilous weather or altering your travel plans to be more sustainable may be a good idea.
Air Travel: A Rising Issue
The future of air travel can appear to be equivocal with stories of temperatures too hot for planes and thawing permafrost flooding airport runways. While global warming continues, we can expect to see more extreme weather. For the most part, these conditions are the exception and not the norm, so they should not affect your travel plans. However, it’s important to be on the lookout for the conditions mentioned below, as these changes could impact air travel.
The Effects of Increased Heat on Aircraft Performance
As global warming gradually increases the temperature of Earth’s surface, oceans, and atmosphere, a few airports have taken a hit. In 2017, for instance, over 40 American Eagle regional flights were canceled in Phoenix. Essentially, extreme heat makes for unsafe takeoff conditions. If you’re planning to travel to a tropical resort, double-check your flight status. While the airline will ultimately decide whether or not conditions are safe to fly in it, keeping track of flight cancellations is generally a good idea.
The Effects of Thawing Permafrost on Airport Runways
Permafrost is rock or soil held together by a temperature that consistently rests below freezing point. For countries with massive swaths of permafrost, global warming can cause trouble. Canada especially has experienced hardships due to this phenomenon. About “40 to 50 percent of the land area in Canada,” is covered in permafrost that is beginning to thaw, according to Canadian Geographic. With temperatures warming, the permafrost simply cannot remain frozen. Such an occurrence has resulted in renovations to the Iqaluit Airport in Nunavut, Canada. In 2013, thawing permafrost caused asphalt to sink making the runway unusable. The issue was resolved rather quickly and researchers have begun to investigate any further effects climate change may impose.
Regulations to Prevent Climate Change
Regulations will likely fall into place as climate change continues. While most regulations will not affect your travel plans, some may be directly geared towards air travel – especially since air traffic is expected to double in 20 years. Some global initiatives have already been put forward to jointly combat climate change.
Global Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation
In 2016, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a U.N. Agency, put forth a proposal aimed at reducing air travel emissions. Titled the Global Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, or CORSIA for short, the proposal gained support from 192 countries. However, the proposal was non-binding, allowing a country to choose whether or not to participate in the offsetting scheme — and be funded if so choosing to participate.
While the European Union has since implemented some regulations for reducing emissions in domestic flights, its counterpart, the United States, has failed to do the same. In 2017, President Trump withdrew the U.S.from the Paris climate accord, a global initiative aimed at combating climate change.
Will Regulations Impact Consumers?
No major movements to restrict consumer flights due to climate change concerns currently exist. Instead, regulations are being introduced primarily to encourage airlines to embrace eco-friendly technology and fuels. One airline hopping on board is AirFrance, whose eco-friendly policies promise to replace single-use plastic with bio-based materials by the end of 2019. Consumers should not worry about disrupted travel plans, but rather prepare for a potentially different flying experience.
Potential Effects from a Green New Deal
Concerns, fomented by Sen. Rick Scott’s comments, that the Green New Deal will affect air travel are largely dismissible. Without any reference to air travel in the resolution, no such assumption can be made. Rather, the resolution suggests plans for slowing climate change and protecting the environment. The House resolution includes “overhauling transportation systems in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as much as is technologically feasible, including through investment in high-speed rail,” among other investments. The resolution suggests implementing alternatives to air travel, not fully doing away with it.
Instead of ditching your travel plans, make tweaks to them in order to reduce your carbon footprint while enjoying your trip. Embracing ecotourism can include traveling by train rather than plane, eating at sustainable restaurants, or choosing eco-friendly hotels.
According to the International Ecotourism Society, ecotourism can be defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education.” With many ecotourism destinations requiring flights to arrive there, the whole idea can feel like one big contradiction. However, knowledge of air travel’s impact does not have to be a reason to stop traveling. The economic and socio-cultural benefits of travel both educate and inspire people to embrace eco-friendly initiatives further down the line.
Practical Ways to Be a Sustainable Traveler
A major revamping of the transportation system can be left to the professionals. However, our minor everyday choices can be vital in combating climate change. Reducing our own carbon footprint plays a much bigger role in sustainability then we’re led to believe. For those looking to be a sustainable traveler, here are some tips:
- Recycling – Any product that can be recycled should be recycled. Better yet, buy reusable products such as water bottles or straws. By buying a reusable product in the first place, you take away that need for disposables. When deciding whether or not to recycle or buy disposable products, remember that 8 million metric tons of plastic flood our oceans every year.
- Green Transportation – While air travel might be unavoidable, you can minimize your carbon footprint by choosing more eco-friendly transportation options once you have arrived at your destination. For quick methods of transportation, traveling by bus or train is optimal, though, traveling by foot or bike is surely the most eco-friendly.
- Sustainable Diets – Following a sustainable diet, such as veganism, is a very environmentally friendly option. In order to keep up with such a diet while on vacation, it can be helpful to read a travel guide for vegans. Bringing your own food or planning your travels around vegan-friendly cities helps to ensure an efficacious journey. Some eco-friendly cities include Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Berlin, Portland, and Stockholm. These cities are sure to have plenty of sustainable dining options. For cities that are less equipped with vegan-friendly options, search for hotels and restaurants that offer buffets. Fruits, nuts, and salads are common buffet options available to vegans.
- Eco-Friendly Businesses – Maintaining eco-friendly habits can be difficult when it comes to traveling. In your hometown, you may have a routine, a favorite vegan restaurant you go to or a sustainable grocery store within walking distance. Traveling means you must come to rely on the businesses of others in a whole new place. However, it doesn’t have to mean succumbing to non-environmentally friendly practices. It is possible to blend the luxury of a resort with eco-friendly values. The Blau Natura Park Eco Resort & Spa in Cabeza de Toro shows how green tourism is being made possible. Many of Blau’s Hotels for Holidays feature designs made from materials indigenous to the country, as well as restaurants offering locally-sourced produce and meat. By allowing a hotel to do all the hard work, you can more easily enjoy your holiday with peace of mind.