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How much is tourism hurting the environment?

Aussie-led study finds out

It’s the question, and one that’s often left unanswered, that any eco-conscious traveller asks themselves. How is my travel hurting the environment? Now, the results of a new study go some way to answering that question.



In a paper published in science journal Nature Climate Change, a team of researchers has quantified the environmental impact of travel from long-haul flights to cheap souvenirs, the Independent reported.


In the first attempt to quantify the industry’s total carbon footprint, the study found that tourism accounts for around 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Worryingly, the study found that growing demand for luxury travel could make its already significant impact even higher. 


“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,” University of Sydney sustainability expert Dr Arunima Malik said.


Considering tourism operations – including transport, events, hotels, food and shopping – in 189 countries, as well as the relevant upstream supply chains, the study found the US, China and Germany responsible for the biggest footprints.


“Given that tourism is set to grow faster than many other economic sectors, the international community may consider its inclusion in the future in climate commitments, such as the Paris accord, by tying international flights to specific nations,” said Dr Ya-Yen Sun, coauthor from the University of Queensland.


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


Written by: Mark Harada
Published: 15 May 2018

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