• Sofia Eugeniou

How climate change could disrupt your future travel plans

Updated: Jul 9, 2020

Climate change is here and it doesn't look like it is going anywhere any time soon.


With more of us taking steps to live eco-friendly lifestyles, or at least more conscious about how we move and consume resources impacts the planet, the global momentum around climate change is building to a crescendo.


Global greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), however, continue to rise and have been doing so for the past decade despite the current and future threat posed by climate change.


Image credit: NRDC

According to a 2018 United Nations report, "There is no sign of [greenhouse gas] emissions peaking in the next few years,", but every year that emissions continue to increase "means that deeper and faster cuts will be required" to keep Earth from warming more than 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.


If our efforts - governmental, industrial and individual - do not start to make serious changes in the levels of emissions we emit, climate change and its impacts will reach a point of no return. The numerous ways in which global warming and climate could impact our lives have been heavily documented.


The ways in climate change will disrupt travel in the future is one that tops the list.


Air travel, in particular, is on the firing line. As temperatures rise, it may get too hot for some planes to fly.


Research from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in 2015 found that extreme heat restricts the takeoff weight of aeroplanes. As warmer air is less dense than cooler air, planes get less lift under their wings and their engines produce less power. This issue may force airlines in the future to bump passengers from their flights or leave luggage behind to lighten their loads.


This concern is one reason why flights from the Middle East leave at night; the practice could well become the standard for the UK, too.


Moreover, the fact many airports are located on low-lying land could mean more flight disruptions in the future due to increased flooding risks associated with climate change.


The issue of increased flood risks is especially a concern for the south and southeast of England, which are low-lying areas vulnerable to global warming that exacerbates sea-level rise and extreme weather events, such as intense rainfall and flood risks.


Flights from Gatwick Airport, for instance, have been disrupted in the past and will continue to be at risk so long as the climate change threat persists.


Image credit: Airbus

Once in the air, jet setters may experience more turbulence as stronger winds dominate the atmosphere. Greater gusts create more sheer, resulting in the turbulence we experience onboard an aeroplane.


Recreational travel is also on the hot seat. Climate change will likely impact many popular destinations due to worsening problems of sea-level rise, storm surges and erosive processes that particularly affect our coastlines.


Visitor hotspots such as those along Florida's southwest and Gulf coasts are already suffering. Toxic algae blooms (known as the process of eutrophication) have already killed fish and turtles, sending the stench and toxins into the air and making beaches here unpleasant and unhealthy.


This issue will worsen if climate change continues to raise water temperatures in lakes, estuaries and in our oceans.


World Heritage locations and Sites of Specific Scientific Interest (SSSIs) that many of us flock to visit are also vulnerable to global warming impacts. The Amazon is dying from wildfires, the Arctic's ice caps are thawing and the Great Barrier Reef's coral are bleaching and dying at worrying rates.


As global temperatures continue to rise, climate change will affect our safety and the way we live our lives. Travel will undoubtedly become harder and riskier.

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