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Air transport, climate change and tourism

Bows, A., Anderson, B. & Peeters, P. M.

Bibliographical information:
Bows, A., Anderson, B. & Peeters, P. M. (2009) Air transport, climate change and tourism. Tourism and Hospitality: Planning & Development, 6 (1), 7-20.


Air transport plays an ever more important role in tourism. However, air transport already has a 40% share of all tourism CO2 emissions and 54–75% of radiative forcing (UNWTO, UNEP, WMO, 2008). Furthermore, the EU Commission wishes to play its part in ensuring global temperatures do not rise by more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels by reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 60–80% by 2050 from 1990 levels. Although the EU accepts that emissions from the aviation industry are important, it remains ambiguous as to whether or not its emission-reduction target includes this ever-growing sector. Furthermore, by using percentage reduction targets, the EU neglects the crucial importance of both cumulative emissions and carbon-cycle feedbacks. This paper aims to address both the target's deficiencies and the likely contribution that technology can make to improving aviation fuel efficiency by quantifying the contribution of the aviation industry to future EU climate change targets in relation to CO2 alone. This paper demonstrates that, despite a variety of technological options available to improve fuel efficiency within the aviation industry, current high rates of growth are locking aviation into becoming a very significant contributor to the EU's climate change emissions within the next few decades. Furthermore, the consequences of these findings for the future of tourism are discussed.
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