Carbon dioxide emissions from global tourism could increase by more than 300 per cent by the end of the century, a study suggests.
The growing number of long haul flights has been named as the main contributor to the expected increase in carbon emissions in the tourism sector projected for the period between 2010 and 2100 by researchers from NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands.
To reverse the growth of the carbon footprint of tourism, major measures would have to be taken including replacing fossil fuel powered vehicles with electric cars and limiting flying.
According to Paul Peeters, Associate Professor at the university, the issue is rather complex and there’s no single silver bullet to tackle it.
For example, if mankind failed to shift to electric vehicles, it may need to cut the levels of air travel to 1970 levels.
"We can still keep the growth in the number of trips, we don't have to say 'you can't have a holiday', but the destinations will be different or the transport methods will be different," Peeters said.
He suggested the world could carry on flying as much as at present, but the flights would have to be redistributed so more people in developing economies could fly, which would mean fewer flights by richer nations.
The projections are alarming as they go strongly against the global emission reduction targets which aim to see global greenhouse gas output reduced by 80 per cent by end of the century.
"Our findings suggest that emissions resulting from tourism will outstrip global sustainability goals by a considerable margin,” the researcher warned.
"It's vital that we consider - and model - a wide range of policy options to mitigate the growth of global tourism-related emissions."
Accommodation could also contribute to the projected increase in emissions by some 20 per cent but the emergence of sustainable zero emission buildings could help reverse the trend.
The findings were based on the Global Tourism Transport Model, which allows researchers to model the long-term impacts of different policies on carbon emissions related to tourism, assessing the development of tourism from 1900 up to 2100.