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Climate Change Information and Resources


What is Climate Change?

Causes of Climate Change

Natural and human causes
The greenhouse effect

Effects of Climate Change

Consequences on natural systems
Consequences on human systems

Global and national responses

Implications of Climate Change for Tourism
Impacts of tourism and travel on Climate Change
Effects on tourism

How can we make a difference?

Count our emissions
Actions to reduce emissions
What can we do as a tourist?
What can we do as a tourism industry member?


What is Climate Change?


Over the millions of years of earth’s existence, the climate has changed many times in response to natural causes. Today, the term Climate Change can be defined as “a change in climate attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods''1.
During the last 100 years, the average temperature of the atmosphere near the earth’s surface has risen by 0.74 degrees Celsius.
Eleven of the last twelve years (1995-2006) rank among the twelve warmest years in the instrumental record of global surface temperature (since 1850)2.
Temperatures will likely rise a further 1.1 to 6.4 °C (2.0 to 11.5 °F) during the twenty-first century with a probable 2 to 4.5 degree range if carbon dioxide doubles from pre-industrial levels. Sea-level gain over the same period may range from 180 to 590 millimeters (7 to 23 inches)3.
Even if the minimum predicted increase takes place, it will be larger than any century-long trend in the last 10,000 years.
More information: www.climatechangeinaustralia.gov.au/

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  Causes of Climate Change

  Natural and human causes

There are a number of natural factors responsible for climate change. Volcanic eruptions can lead to a cooling of the Earth's surface temperature as they project aerosols into the atmosphere, which in turn reflect the incoming sunlight back into space. Changes in the planet’s orbit, including alterations to the eccentricity, tilt and precession can alter the seasonal and latitudinal distribution of solar radiation, which can result in changes in the climate. Other natural factors that can affect the climate include differing fluctuations of energy received from the sun and changes in the radiation reflected, which can be caused by changes in cloud cover or land cover.
Climate has and will always vary for natural reasons. However, human activities are increasing significantly the concentrations of some gases in the atmosphere, such as greenhouse gases (mainly CO2), which tend to warm the earth surface. Human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation have contributed to an increase in Greenhouse gas, intensifying the greenhouse effect and thus contributing to changes in the Earth’s climate.

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  • The greenhouse effect
The presence of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is a natural component of the climate system and helps to maintain the Earth as a habitable planet. Many natural and human-made gases contribute to the greenhouse effect that warms the Earth's surface. Water vapor (H2O) is the most important, followed by carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) used in air conditioners and many industrial processes. CO2 contributes more to the recent increase in greenhouse warming than any other gas.
Human activities like the combustion of fossil fuels, conversion of natural prairie to farmland, and deforestation have caused the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
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  Effects of Climate Change

  • Consequences on natural systems

Natural systems vulnerable to climate change include glaciers, coral reefs and atolls, mangroves, boreal and tropical forests, polar and alpine ecosystems, prairie wetlands, and remnant native grasslands. While some species may increase in abundance or range, climate change will increase existing risks of extinction of some more vulnerable species and loss of biodiversity.
Regional climate change is already affecting many natural systems including melting ice and thawing of frozen ground, hydrological and biological systems are changing and in some cases being disrupted, migrations are starting earlier, and species' geographic ranges are shifting towards the poles.


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  • Consequences on human systems

Human systems that are sensitive to climate change include water resources; agriculture (especially food security) and forestry; coastal zones and marine systems (fisheries); human settlements, energy, and industry; insurance and other financial services; and human health. The vulnerability of these systems varies with geographic location, time, and social, economic, and environmental conditions4.
More information: www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/syr/ar4_syr.pdf

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  Global and national responses


Kyoto Protocol
The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement which builds on the UNFCCC and sets legally binding targets and timetables for cutting greenhouse-gas emissions of industrialised countries.


Davos declaration
The IPCC is an international panel of scientists and researchers that provides advice on climate change to the international community. The role of the IPCC is to assess the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant for the understanding of the risks of human induced climate change and provide policy relevant advice on the state of technical knowledge on climate change. The assessments inform international negotiations on climate change issues.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
The UNFCCC is a primary policy tool for facilitating a global response to protect the climate system for present and future generations.


Tour Operators Initiative for Sustainable Tourism Development (TOISTD)
TOISTD develops management tools to design and conduct tours that minimise negative environmental, social and economic impacts while optimising their benefits.


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Greenhouse Challenge Plus
The programme builds on the success of Greenhouse Challenge (established in 1995), integrating the Generator Efficiency Standards and the Greenhouse Friendly™ initiative into a single industry programme. The programme is managed by the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Greenhouse Challenge Plus is designed to:
- reduce greenhouse gas emissions
- accelerate the uptake of energy efficiency
- integrate greenhouse issues into business decision-making
- provide more consistent reporting of greenhouse gas emissions levels

Climate Action Australia Certification Program
The Climate Action Certification Program is dedicated to ranking efforts to reduce carbon emissions. It is designed for all sectors of the tourism industry, regardless of size and level of carbon reduction already undertaken. It includes the tourism hotels, attractions, tours, transport, restaurants, travel agents, tourism commissions and industry bodies.

Australian Government action on climate change

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  Implications of Climate Change for Tourism

Impacts of Tourism and travel on Climate Change


CO2 emissions attributable to tourism is estimated to be around 5% (within a range of 3.9% to 6.0%). Measured in radiative forcing, the contribution of tourism to global warming is estimated to be 4.6% (excluding cirrus-related effects), with a range from 3.8% (excluding cirrus-related effects) to a possible maximum of 9.0% (including maximum cirrus-related effects). The ranges reflect the uncertainty associated with current assessments.
Regarding CO2 emissions by sector, it is clear that transport generates the largest proportion of emission (75%). In terms of radiative forcing (contribution to 2005 climate change) the share of transport is significantly larger and ranges from 81% to 89%, with air transport accounting for 54% to 75% of the total5.
More information: www.unwto.org/media/news/en/pdf/davos_rep_advan_summ_26_09.pdf

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  Effects on tourism


The tourism industry relies heavily on the natural environment and climate to attract tourists, which as a result of climate change could face serious challenges.
In fact, some effects of climate change are already being felt in many places. Glaciers are shrinking, growing seasons are lengthening, tropical cyclones have increased in intensity and global and regional temperatures are rising. Moreover, further increases in greenhouse gases are likely to lead to continued global warming, sea levels are expected to rise, and an increase in extreme weather events such as floods, heatwaves and storms is also expected. Projected higher mean temperatures can result in extreme discomfort for visitors and staff, heat fatigue, impact on food hygiene and changes to tourism seasons. 
In Australia, some of the possible effects related to tourism are6:

  • A decline in cloud cover that will increase exposure to the sun's harmful rays;
  • Winter tourism may also be affected, as skiing destinations experience less snowfall and shorter skiing seasons. Greater investment in snow-making will be needed;
  • Rainfall over most parts of the world may increase, but some places in the mid-latitudes, including parts of Australia, may become drier;
  • In tropical rainforests, even a modest degree of warming is likely to significantly harm high altitude rainforest flora and fauna;
  • In woodland ecosystems modest warming may harm most frog and mammal species; and
  • Coral reefs will be under additional stress due to ocean warming causing coral bleaching, and stronger tropical cyclones, sea level rise and higher levels of carbon dioxide which may reduce its growth rates.

More information:

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  How can we make a difference?

  Count our emissions




Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator for Individual

CAMSAT: the Carbon Management Self Assessment Tool
Self Assessment Tool which helps organizations assess the quality
of their carbon management, and their ability to respond effectively to the

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  Actions to reduce emissions

Global Warming Cool It
A home guide to reducing energy costs greenhouse gases.

Climate Care
Help business and individual to reduce CO2 emissions, give advice to reduce carbon footprint or calculate and buy carbon offsets through transparent projects in renewable and energy efficiency.

Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF)
Going Green tips at home and at work.

Easy Being Green Australia
Tips for the individual and office.

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Carbon Offset Guide Australia
The Carbon Offset Guide is intended to be a resource for businesses, government agencies, NGO organisations and individuals seeking information about offsets. The aim of the website is to provide an independent directory of Australian carbon offset providers.


Clean Air - Cool Planet
A Consumer's Guide to Retail Carbon Offset Providers.

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  What can we do as a tourist?

Green passport Holidays for a living planet.
Tips to make tourism a sustainable activity.

The International Ecotourism Society
Advices for tourists in choosing a sustainable trip and becoming responsible travellers.

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What can we do as a tourism industry member?

For the tourism industry in particular to remain attractive and competitive it will need to: demonstrate a clear and decisive response to climate change issues; provide experiences and opportunities that give travelers a sense of contributing to the amelioration of climate change impacts; and raise awareness and communicate this commitment clearly to their customers.



The tourism sector can respond to climate change by progressively reduce its Greenhouse Gas contribution. This will require action to:

- mitigate its Greenhouse Gas contribution emissions, derived especially from transport and accommodation activities;
- adapt tourism businesses and destinations to changing climate conditions;
- apply existing and new technology to improve energy efficiency;
- secure financial resources to help poor regions and countries

Tourism businesses have a vital role in implementing initiatives that reduce the CO2 emissions. Suggested actions for the tourism industry to reduce its contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions are:

- changing to renewable energy: solar, wind, hydro energy;
- incorporate public transport and cycling infrastructure as alternative low impact vehicle technology;
- minimise motorized transports;
- adopt low emission engines;
- minimise, reuse and recycle waste where possible;
- incorporate green building techniques;
- more efficient use of water;
- use efficient energy for lighting;
- choosing suppliers who have a commitment to climate friendly;
- regulation of air conditioning and natural ventilation maximized;
- minimise and reduce travel distances and transport;
- maximise use of electronic media;
- purchase or generate carbon credits.

More information:

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  1 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 1992: www.securitycouncilreport.org/atf/cf/%7B65BFCF9B-6D27-4E9C-8CD3-CF6E4FF96FF9%7D/CC%20FCCC%20Informal%2084.pdf

2 Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report IPCC

3 Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:http://ipcc-wg1.ucar.edu/wg1/Report/AR4WG1_Print_SPM.pdf

4 Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007: www.ipcc-wg2.org/

5 Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation in the Tourism Sector UNEP 2008: www.unep.fr/shared/publications/pdf/DTIx1047xPA-ClimateChange.pdf

6 Australian Government - Department of Climate Change: www.greenhouse.gov.au/science/faq/question18.html

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