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How climate change is affecting our holiday destinations?

Why is climate change changing the tourism landscape? What top holiday destinations are under threat? And what can we do to save them?
Green News
2023-05-19T00:00:00.000Z
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Dad holding his daughters hand as they walk in the ocean

Whether you’re dreaming of the crystal clear water and white sandy beaches of the Maldives, a cultural city break exploring the historic canals of Venice, or a winter escape zipping down the slopes of the Alps - many of the world’s top holiday destinations face an uncertain future under the looming threat of climate change. 

👉 So, why is climate change changing the tourism landscape? What top holiday destinations are under threat? And what can we do to save them?

Why is climate change a threat to our favourite holiday destinations?

Climate change and global warming are having profound impacts on our world. From increasingly frequent and extreme climate-induced weather events, to more long-term permanent shifts in weather patterns - these effects are having significant repercussions for some of the world’s most iconic and beautiful holiday destinations, and even threatening their very survival in some cases.

❗️If we want to protect the future of these spectacular places, it’s crucial that we take urgent action to prevent further global warming.

So, how is global warming affecting your favourite holiday destinations? And what regions are most at risk?

woman with her arms out, sitting on a boat in a beautiful tropical lagoon with lots of palm trees

Island holiday destinations

It’s the depths of winter. You get up in the dark, and by the time you get home from work it’s already dark again - it feels like you’ve not seen the sun in months. And don’t even mention the terrible weather - rain, wind, and the freezing cold on repeat. Sound familiar? 

So perhaps you’ve booked yourself a little respite with a much anticipated holiday on a beautiful tropical island. You’re already picturing the turquoise water, the sand between your toes, and the feel of the warm sun on your skin. 

But thanks to climate change, these beautiful coastal and island destinations are increasingly under threat and their futures now hang in the balance. Let’s take a closer look at the impacts of global warming on island and coastal destinations.

Beaches and coastlines

As global temperatures rise, glaciers are melting at an alarming rate, and the melted ice has to go somewhere. Most of the water eventually ends up in our oceans, causing sea levels to rise. And this is not the only effect of global warming, because as the temperatures of our oceans increase, the actual seawater also expands, taking up more space and causing a rise in water levels. These impacts mean that global sea levels could rise by as much as 1.6 metres by the end of the century - which would be devastating for coastal communities and low lying island nations. 

And it’s not just rising sea levels that present a threat to beaches and coastlines. Increasingly frequent and intense tropical storms are also causing beaches to erode, and even disappear before our very eyes. In the Maldives for example some resorts have been forced to try and rebuild lost stretches of beach, and they're not alone in this struggle - islands in the Caribbean have also been affected, as have coastal resorts in Mexico. 

Climate change is also increasing the severity of hurricanes which have the potential to bring flash flooding and destruction to seaside communities.

beautiful tropical beach with white sand and clear blue waters

Coral reefs

Perhaps it's not the beaches that you’ve travelled so far to see - maybe it's the incredible underwater life instead. Well, unfortunately, these environments are under threat too. 

Climate change and global warming are causing large-scale bleaching of the Earth’s beautiful coral reefs. Not only are they stripped of their beautiful colours, but the bleaching also risks irreparable damage to these living structures and can even kill the coral altogether. 

What’s even more concerning is that since coral reefs form a crucial part of intricate underwater ecosystems, their death can have significant repercussions for the different varieties of marine creatures living there.

man diving with turtle next to bleached coral

Water supply

One other significant concern for small island nations is water supply. With global warming increasing incidences of drought, island nations are particularly vulnerable to water shortages. In fact, for some islands in the Caribbean, water shortages are already a recurring problem.

cracked dry earth

Mountain holiday destinations

Maybe you don’t really like the sun or the heat - you prefer a cold environment for your holiday destination. You love the mountain views and the fresh air on your face, and can’t wait to hit the slopes and enjoy the snow this winter. 

But hold up, the winter wonderland you’ve been dreaming of might not exist for long! Global warming is resulting in much milder winters, and it seems that even high lying areas like the Alps can’t escape the effects of climate change.

You’ve probably noticed that our winters feel milder, and there’s less snowfall than in past decades. Well, this is also the case even in high altitude regions - snowfall is decreasing. 

Not only is there less snow now, but it’s also arriving later and later, and melting earlier too - resulting in an increasingly short ski season. You’ve probably seen the images of resorts in the Alps with brown, bare runs and read about the rainfall affecting the lower lying ski stations. 

And even the glacier ski resorts can’t escape the effects of global warming. With melting glaciers the very landscape of the high mountainous regions is completely changing, which raises the risk of incidents like landslides and avalanches. 

Even in the southern hemisphere the effects are being felt. Patagonia, in Argentina, is a popular tourist destination and draws visitors all year round due to the spectacular scenery of its snow capped mountains and ice fields. However, these elements are also slowly melting away, and icebergs are carving off glaciers, disappearing into the ocean. At this rate, it’s only a matter of time before the stunning glaciers are completely gone.

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Nature holiday destinations

Those of us who love venturing off into natural landscapes such as forests and jungles to experience nature are also not free and clear from the impacts of climate change. Forest ecosystems are also under fire from global warming - literally! 

Global warming is making incidences of wildfires considerably more likely, and whole areas of forest can be completely burnt to the ground, resulting in the complete destruction of whole ecosystems and presenting danger to human life. 

And we’re even starting to experience these wildfires in regions that have typically been unaffected. Just take the forest fires in the summer of 2022 in Europe - several regions were affected that were previously not considered to be a grave fire risk. 

The destruction of these nature-based holiday destinations can have a huge impact on local communities who often rely on nature tourism for a source of income.

monkeys playing in the rainforest tree canopy

What famous holiday destinations are most at risk?

Maldives

The Maldives are a dream holiday destination for many people. These paradise islands are tucked away in the middle of the Indian Ocean and offer an escape from all the worries and stresses of everyday life. However, this paradise is under threat from climate change. 

Made up of a series of atolls (ring shaped islands that are made from coral), the islands of the Maldives are some of the lowest lying islands in the world. With an average of only 1.3 metres above sea level, these beautiful islands are at risk of being completely submerged by rising waters. 

In fact, in many of the luxury resorts dotted around the islands it's already possible to see the effects, with sections of otherwise picture perfect beaches eroding into the sea. Guests might notice the sandbags and concrete protectors installed to try and prevent their decline.

arial shot of Maldives island resort with lots of water bungalows

Venice

Venice is a city trapped in time - like a living museum, its streets transport visitors back to another century. Known as a great holiday destination for romance, loved up couples walk along its beautiful canals or enjoy trips along the city's canals as gondoliers serenade them. 

However, there’s another side to Venice, one that tourists often miss during their visits during the summer months. Because in winter, Venice frequently finds itself battling with the rising tides of the lagoon in which it is built - so much so that its famous square, Piazza San Marco, is often completely submerged. 

Although flooding is not a recent phenomenon, it’s a growing threat as global sea levels continue to rise. Flooding is now much more frequent and also more severe.

Did you know? Venice's average sea level is over 30cm higher now than it was when official records began at the end of the 19th century. 

Thankfully, action has been taken to try and prevent the city from becoming completely submerged. The Italian Government created a billion euro engineering feat called ‘MOSE’. MOSE is still technically not complete, though it has been running for several years in an experimental mode. The floodgates have been largely successful and are credited with saving the city from being almost completely submerged by the highest tide levels in over 50 years, back in 2022.

Venice lagoon with historic buildings and boat

Australia

Australia is a dream holiday destination for many - with beautiful beaches, great weather and incredible nature that can’t be found anywhere else on the planet, Australia is definitely a bucket list destination. But worryingly, the country is increasingly making headlines for the catastrophic climate related events it’s having to endure. 

We’ve already talked about the impact of global warming and climate change on coral reefs, and given that Australia is home to the largest coral reef system in the world, there’s nowhere else that the impact is quite so evident. 

At a global level, severe bleaching events are happening five times more often than in previous decades. March 2022 was confirmed to be the Great Barrier Reef’s 4th mass bleaching event since 2016 alone and recent research showed that as much as 91% of the Great Barrier Reef’s coral was affected by the bleaching. The future of this natural wonder now hangs in the balance. 

And it’s not just Australia’s coral reefs that are under threat, forest fires are also something that Australia has to battle with almost on a yearly basis. Every summer in Australia there is a growing risk of large scale bushfires destroying forests, homes and even threatening lives.

Forest fires in Australia are 30% more likely thanks to the effects of climate change and global warming!
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Brazil

Brazil is a popular holiday destination thanks to the variety of different landscapes and climates to explore. But perhaps none are quite as famous as its headline city - Rio De Janeiro. 

Climate experts have warned that the city is one of the most ‘at risk’ cities in South America due to the effects of climate change. It’s particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels that threaten its famous beaches. However, other risks take the form of landslides, water scarcity and even the increased threat of disease.  

Besides its beautiful beaches, Brazil is also famous for the vast and wild Amazon rainforest. Home to an incredible array of species that can’t be found anywhere else on the planet, the Amazon attracts nature lovers from across the globe. But sadly, climate changing is making the Amazon increasingly fragile. Increased temperatures and changing rain patterns mean that  incidents of drought have become commonplace, often killing parts of the forest and making the region more prone to forest fires.

Sugar Loaf mountain in Rio

How can we save these holiday destinations?

The most important thing that we can do collectively as a society is to eliminate our use of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are one of the primary causes of climate change, and therefore, if we want to prevent global temperatures from rising further, and to protect the futures of some of the world’s most beautiful and special places, it’s absolutely imperative that we decarbonise our societies. 

Thankfully, international and national efforts are being made to transition our societies to net zero. The Paris Agreement for example, commits signatories to reducing emissions with the aim of keeping global temperature rises under 1.5 degrees (vs 1990s levels). Many countries have also adopted their own legally binding commitments to achieve net zero emissions and decrease their reliance on harmful fossil fuels. 

However, the fight against climate change is a collective effort, and so there are also actions that we, as individuals, should be taking to reduce our own carbon footprint. Why not check out our article on Green Living to find out how you can reduce your environmental impact.

It’s also worth pointing out that while this article focuses on the impacts on some of our favourite holiday destinations, the real impact is being felt by local communities and people who call these beautiful holiday destinations home. Often their livelihoods are closely linked to the success of the local tourism industry and so climate change represents a very significant and real threat to their entire way of life. 

This is why climate adaptation and mitigation actions and finance are so crucial. It’s imperative that the world's wealthiest nations (who are usually those most responsible for climate change in the first place) provide the financial backing and support to help vulnerable nations adapt and deal with the impacts of climate change.

What about Greenly? 

At Greenly we can help you to assess your company’s carbon footprint, and then give you the tools you need to cut down on emissions. Why not request a free demo with one of our experts - no obligation or commitment required. 

If reading this article has inspired you to consider your company’s own carbon footprint, Greenly can help. Learn more about Greenly’s carbon management platform here.

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