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Global Warming & Travel
Rising temperatures, drought and water shortages, melting glaciers and icecaps and extreme weather conditions bring the problem of global warming into our collective consciousness. The need to address this global concern, both on an individual, business and government level, has never been more immediate. We must act now to build a future that is less reliant on fossil fuels for energy and instead harness the efficiencies of renewable resources to fuel our homes, businesses and modern lifestyles.
What causes global warming?
The industrialized world along with our modern lifestyle has largely led to warming of our planet. The earth’s atmosphere is delicate and thin, and we humans have changed its composition by increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases are found in the atmosphere and hold in heat, such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. These gases play the important role of maintaining the earth’s temperature at a comfortable 59oF. Without these gases the earth’s surface temperature would drop to 0oF. However our industrialized and modern world produces too much greenhouse gas to maintain this balanced arrangement. It is estimated that 80% of the greenhouse gases we produce are C02. When we burn fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas and coal we release C02 into the atmosphere. When the sun’s energy enters the atmosphere, instead of heating the earth and re-radiating the excess heat back into space the extra greenhouse gases trap more heat and as a result the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere and oceans is getting dangerously high.
What are the potential impacts of global warming?
Global warming, according to the Stern Review: The Economics of Climate Change will have the following impacts on the globe if we do not act now:
- Melting glaciers will initially increase flood risk and then strongly reduce water supplies, eventually threatening one-sixth of the world’s population, predominantly in the Indian sub-continent, parts of China, and the Andes in South America.
- Declining crop yields, especially in Africa, could leave hundreds of millions without the ability to produce or purchase sufficient food. At mid to high latitudes, crop yields may increase for moderate temperature rises (2 - 3°C), but then decline with greater amounts of warming. At 4°C and above, global food production is likely to be seriously affected.
- In higher latitudes, cold-related deaths will decrease. But climate change will increase worldwide deaths from malnutrition and heat stress. Vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever could become more widespread if effective control measures are not in place.
- Rising sea levels will result in tens to hundreds of millions more people flooded each year with warming of 3 or 4°C. There will be serious risks and increasing pressures for coastal protection in South East Asia (Bangladesh and Vietnam), small islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific, and large coastal cities, such as Tokyo, New York, Cairo and London. According to one estimate, by the middle of the century, 200 million people may become permanently displaced due to rising sea levels, heavier floods, and more intense droughts.
- Ecosystems will be particularly vulnerable to climate change, with around 15 - 40% of species potentially facing extinction after only 2°C of warming. And ocean acidification, a direct result of rising carbon dioxide levels, will have major effects on marine ecosystems, with possible adverse consequences on fish stocks.
Note: All changes in global mean temperature are expressed relative to pre-industrial levels (1750 - 1850).
Is it too late?
The BBC Weather Centre states “even if we stopped CO2 emissions immediately, the effects of what we've already done would still influence our weather for years to come.”
However many commentators suggest that it is not too late to reduce the extent of the climate change as well as the rate at which we experience the impact of climate change. We must act now, on a local and global scale, to reduce emissions and in turn reduce the damage we are having on the environment. If we can slow down the rate of change we will be much better able to adapt to the changes. The common message is that there is no rewind button on climate change; that we must take action now and we don’t have a lot of room for error and so we must get it right the first time.
Why is World Expeditions dedicated to reducing our carbon emissions and investing in renewable resources?
- Core to World Expeditions’ philosophies on travel and the way our business operates is our commitment to Responsible Tourism. Since our inception we have set the industry standards on Responsible Tourism practices and so it is a natural progression for us to take responsibility for the emissions produced as a result of our business.
- We have an obligation to ensure the long-term interests of the world’s natural environments as well as the preservation and diversity of the cultures of the world.
- We have a vested interest to ensure that the world’s natural and cultural assets are accessible to our future generations.
- The costs of unchecked global warming to our business are great and devastating if we don’t act now.
- We believe the developed world has a moral obligation to support the developing nations like China and India to come out of poverty. These developing nations will require energy to lift the standard of living in their countries and we must ensure that they have access to affordable renewable energy in order to build their economies. In fact if we don’t act now it is suggested that the poor nations of the world will suffer the most from the impacts of global warming.
- The aviation industry is the number one fastest growing contributor of CO². With more people flying more often, travellers around the world must take responsibility for the impact they have on the environment. If you are committed to environmentally responsible travel, like we are at World Expeditions, we strongly encourage you to offset your air travel, as we do for all of our staff travel.
If my country has a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme, will my action still help?
Yes, it most certainly will. Voluntary action builds on and goes beyond the very modest emission reduction targets set under national carbon management programs. For example the Australian governments climate change policies aim to reduce national emissions by a mere 5%. Far more than this is needed in order to effectively combat climate change. Any additional action that you take to voluntarily reduce and/or offset your emissions will be a valuable contribution to this enormous challenge.National emission reduction legislation is typically focused on the largest polluters, which means that most organisations are only indirectly affected, for example through higher energy costs. But even if your company does have direct obligations, voluntary action should still be an important element of your environmental management program - no company has ever been praised or rewarded simply for meeting its regulatory requirements, whereas voluntary action will set you apart from your competitors in the eyes of customers, staff and the wider community. Furthermore, as large companies work ever harder to reduce their own emissions, they are also exerting increasing pressure down through their supply chains by requiring that suppliers of goods and services meet high environmental management criteria in order to win or retain their busines
In this context, a strong emission reduction and offset policy is rapidly becoming a commercial, not just environmental, imperative.