Tourism contributes significantly to global gross domestic product, and is forecast to grow at an annual 4%, thus outpacing many other economic sectors. However, global carbon emissions related to tourism are currently not well quantified. Here, we quantify tourism-related global carbon flows between 160 countries, and their carbon footprints under origin and destination accounting perspectives. We find that, between 2009 and 2013, tourism’s global carbon footprint has increased from 3.9 to 4.5 GtCO2e, four times more than previously estimated, accounting for about 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Transport, shopping and food are significant contributors. The majority of this footprint is exerted by and in high-income countries. The rapid increase in tourism demand is effectively outstripping the decarbonization of tourism-related technology. We project that, due to its high carbon intensity and continuing growth, tourism will constitute a growing part of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
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This work was financially supported by the Australian Research Council through its Discovery Projects DP0985522 and DP130101293, the National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources project (NeCTAR) through its Industrial Ecology Virtual Laboratory, and the Taiwan Ministry of Science and Technology (no. 105-2410-H-006-055-MY3). The authors thank S. Juraszek for expertly managing the Global IELab’s advanced computation requirements, and C. Jarabak for help with collecting data.
Supplementary Methods, Supplementary Notes, Supplementary Data, Supplementary Results, Supplementary Figures 1–13, Supplementary Tables 1–14, Supplementary Discussion and Supplementary References