Scientists have always been awful at explaining scientific concepts to the complete dumbfucks that walk this earth. That’s why they coined the term global warming – like fresh baked cookies or the feeling you get when you curl up under a heavy blanket on a cold day. No one took global warming seriously because it doesn’t sound that serious. Nonetheless, global warming has slowly but surely changed weather patterns, raised sea temperatures, and is wreaking havoc all over the world. And one of the first global industries to see its disastrous effects is the travel industry. With the increasing incidence of widespread flooding, wildfires, and storms, global warming is here to ruin travel.
This July was the hottest July ever recorded on earth. Temperatures at some of the most popular summer destinations in Europe like southern Italy and Greece soared to almost 48 degrees (120 degrees Fahrenheit). And if that wasn’t enough to get people to cancel their vacations at the last minute, wildfires started raging. Nearly 20,000 people – mostly tourists – were evacuated from Rhodes before Corfu and Evia had to evacuate after they, too, started burning. While wildfires aren’t new to the Greek islands, long heat waves are, exacerbating a natural problem and making wildfires more likely and more dangerous.
Hawaii is also seeing the effects of hotter summers. In August 2023 alone, it has seen five wildfire disasters, which is the same number the state recorded from 1953 to 2003. Lahaina, the historic resort town that is one of Maui’s top tourist destinations was basically burned to the ground, leaving at least 110 dead. This figure doesn’t include future deaths from exposure to smoke leading to long-term respiratory illnesses.
The pattern here is that some of the most desirable vacation destinations may suddenly become a lot less attractive and a lot more unpredictable to visit. And while this is merely an inconvenience for tourists, it obviously has a much bigger impact on communities around the world whose main economic activity is tourism. No one wants to go to a burned-out husk of a beach – they will just take their money elsewhere.
While this isn’t as alarming of a problem as, say, the food insecurity caused by widespread crop failure that’s on the horizon, it’s one that we’re seeing the effects of right now. It’s not a theoretical future problem that scientists can sound alarm bells over and everyone else can just continue to ignore.
What are travelers to do about global warming?
Tourism accounts for about 8% of the world’s carbon emissions, half of which is due to transport – with air travel being the biggest offender. So how can we stop contributing to that? This may be an unpopular opinion, but the answer is to simply stop traveling. Though there is a growing sustainable travel trend, not traveling is the only sustainable way to travel. We’re deluding ourselves to think otherwise. Does that mean we should all stop traveling to save the planet?
That is a personal choice that is yours alone to make. What I will say is that as an individual, one that is largely at the mercy of our billionaire overlords, your actions and mine are pretty much irrelevant in this situation. Did you know that during the Covid pandemic – when no one was traveling because they were restricted from doing so – airlines (who received outrageous handouts from governments to stay in business) were flying their planes empty just to avoid losing their dedicated slots at big airports? So whether you want to be a sustainable traveler or not, the fact is that travel – and its accompanying contributions to disastrous climate change – will go on with or without you. The only difference is that these huge companies have passed the guilt onto you for wanting to enjoy your miserable life by taking a week off and going to drink pina coladas on a beach somewhere.
In fact, the whole idea of a personal carbon footprint was created by the PR of oil giant BP to do exactly that. Major oil companies want you to be worried about how you personally contribute to global warming while they account for over a third of all carbon emissions annually. The grim reality of global warming is that it affects a whole lot of people who didn’t personally do anything – not anything significant anyway – to get us where we are.
Traveling with consideration and a back-up plan
What we can do in these times of biblical disasters is travel with some sense. There are reports out of Maui that tourists were snorkeling while rescue efforts were still underway to recover the bodies of victims that may have tried to swim out to safety from the fires. It’s one thing not to care very much about how the plane you’re on is contributing to carbon emissions but quite another to be in the face of human suffering and go on with your trip like nothing happened.
Maybe you can’t relate because no one vacations in Pocatello, Idaho, but if you had just lost your home or your family members, you would need help and not to be further inconvenienced by other people’s vacations. So if you do find yourself in a situation where a place you are visiting experiences a catastrophic disaster, either help or leave. Trying to finish out your trip just because you already have a hotel reservation is unnecessarily taking up resources in the community that can be used for rescue and rebuilding efforts.
In these instances, it helps to have travel insurance. Fires are far from the only disasters that can affect your trip. Hurricanes, floods, and other natural phenomena can lead to unexpected vacation interruption. If you have insurance, you can at least rest easy knowing that you’ll be reimbursed for taking an early flight home or losing your accommodation deposit – which is more than the people personally affected in those communities can say.
Sooner or later, we’re all going to face the consequences of global warming – we’re like the band on the Titanic, playing through the wait for the inevitable moment when we starve to death or boil alive. If we’re going to keep traveling in the reality of our hotter world, the least we can do is travel with compassion and a contingency plan if everything goes south. Rest assured, if you live long enough, the one begging for help and compassion will be you when your life is turned upside down by climate catastrophe. Hmm, maybe if climate scientists had hired the PR team BP had, they would have named it that instead of global warming.