How Will Climate Change Affect the Way We Travel?
Jul 2023

Climate change is contributing to record-breaking heat waves and life-threatening fires and storms. When it comes to air travel, these events have caused havoc at airports with ridiculous delays, cancellations, and terrifying turbulence. Natural disasters aren’t new, but scientists are reaching a consensus that their frequency and severity are on the rise as a result of climate change. Traveling by plane is one of the contributors to this, so it’s no wonder people are questioning if they should be traveling at all.

As an avid traveler for my whole life, I can not just say “ stop traveling” if you want to be a solution to the problem. So today I want to explore some ideas on how we can still be “ responsible” and cautious when it comes to making decisions that impact our future. To travel sustainably, we need to fly less frequently. It's estimated that aviation accounts for about 4% of human-induced global warming. We all know how Greta Thunberg gave up on air travel entirely but the average person can’t like her– catch a ride with sailors, led by the prince of Monaco, in a carbon-neutral yacht every time we want or need to travel across the ocean!

Also let’s not forget the importance of tourism which is essential for so many of the Small Island Dependent States (SIDS) that so often bear the brunt of climate disaster, including the Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius, Fiji; and Caribbean islands such as Barbados, Bahamas, and Saint Lucia. When there are no tourists, local populations experience increased instability. As with what happened during the pandemic, unemployment means that people may turn to illegal logging, fishing, or poaching for survival. So you see, we have to keep traveling to be able to keep these communities afloat and protect our endangered wildlife.

One of the most important behavior changes we can make is how we reach our favorite travel destinations, with transport the most carbon-intensive element of our journey, so using public transport and avoiding short flights, for example. We can also mitigate our footprint at the destination. Eating locally sourced as well as supporting local artisans when shopping helps to create jobs and preserve local heritage. Frequent travelers should also consider extending the length of stay per journey while reducing their travel frequency if and when possible. It is better to one a long-haul flight for 10 days than do three trips for long weekends.

Individuals aren’t responsible for the most emissions
“It’s important to challenge the myth that being a climate activist somehow means you can’t fly in a plane or eat meat,” Jade Begay, climate justice director of NDN Collective and Indigenous rights activist. “These false dichotomies are unhelpful and honestly distract from the bigger picture which is that individuals are not responsible for the largest contributions to carbon emissions and climate change, it’s industry.”

- Source British Vogue 

Not only is the information on the impact of traveling on climate change affecting how we travel, but it is also affecting where we travel to. Tourism in the U.S. is growing at an exponential rate making places like North and South Carolina very popular for New Englanders.  Did you know that some areas of the Outer Banks, which spans nearly 200 miles, have lost more than 200 feet of shoreline in the last two decades, with some spots now losing 13 feet of beach per year, according to Yale Environment 360.  The entire world is grappling with balancing the economic benefits of tourism with the need to preserve and protect the land their lives are built on. There are companies like Responsible Travel, which works to make sure its trips support communities and preserve nature so be cautious and take this information into consideration while planning the rest of your trips and holidays! 

Photography Albert Watson