Planning vacation

When you return home from a vacation, you arrive with treasured memories and souvenirs. But you leave a trail of carbon pollution behind.

Arunima Malik of the University of Sydney says tourism and business travel account for eight percent of annual global carbon emissions.

Malik: “Some of the biggest offenders were transport, shopping, and food.”

Tourists from wealthy countries have the biggest impact because they have more disposable income. The United States tops the charts. And China and Germany round out the top three.

Malik also looked at the data by destination. She found that in many small island countries, the tourism industry creates a disproportionate amount of carbon pollution.

Malik: “Tourist visitors are responsible for between thirty to eighty percent of national emissions of island economies such as Maldives, Mauritius, and Cyprus.”

Small island nations face some of the biggest risks of climate change – from extreme weather like hurricanes to flooding from sea-level rise. But the economies of many islands also depend on visitors. So reducing carbon pollution is a challenge for countries that depend on tourism.

Reporting credit: Ariel Hansen/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Monica Isola is a bilingual biologist-turned-communicator who specializes in climate change, environment, and conservation.