Friday 2 December 2016

How tourism is warming up to climate change

Published 08/10/2011 | 05:00

An enormous iceberg (R) breaks off the Knox Coast in the Australian Antarctic Territory on January 11, 2008. Australia's CSIRO's atmospheric research unit has found the world is warming faster than predicted by the United Nations' top climate change body, with harmful emissions exceeding worst-case estimates. AFP PHOTO/POOL/Torsten BLACKWOOD (Photo credit should read TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images)
An enormous iceberg (R) breaks off the Knox Coast in the Australian Antarctic Territory on January 11, 2008. Australia's CSIRO's atmospheric research unit has found the world is warming faster than predicted by the United Nations' top climate change body, with harmful emissions exceeding worst-case estimates. AFP PHOTO/POOL/Torsten BLACKWOOD (Photo credit should read TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images)

Scientists were steaming earlier this month when a press release for the new edition of the world's most famous atlas stated that a large chunk of Greenland had turned from white to green. The editors of the 'Times Atlas', which calls itself the 'greatest book on earth', have been forced to apologise after making the absurd claim that 15pc of the snow-covered land is now 'green and ice-free'.

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If Greenland melted in its entirety, it would raise sea levels by a massive seven metres. A 15pc reduction in size, or 300,000 sq km, would result in a one metre rise -- enough to swallow up a third of Holland.

Climate change lobbyists were particularly put out by the so-called 'killer error', fearing that the significance of actual warming could now be lost on the public and may cloud the truth. The real loss of permanent ice in Greenland in the last decade is about 0.1pc, which sounds minuscule compared with 15pc. What's the big deal, they feared people would think.

Adding to their fury is a new trend in adventure tourism which is embracing what it sees as the benefits of a warmer planet. Places that were once out of man's reach are now more accessible than ever, providing stunning opportunities for travellers to see the furthest corners of the globe.

The world's most inhospitable continent, Antarctica, is a case in point. In 2010, a vast wall of ice collapsed, which had for years been an obstacle to cruise-ships and whale-watchers. It revealed a shallow channel teeming with feeding humpbacks, much to the delight of tour operators in the region, such as US-based Go South Adventures, who take tourists to the bottom of the world. On a recent cruise, their inflatable boat got within nine metres of the animals.

Quoted in 'Time' magazine recently, the company's founder, Troy Glennon illustrated the paradoxical approach explorers such as him now take to global warming.

"We have a love-hate relationship with climate change. It gives us access to places unseen and places unforeseen, but the loss of species and biodiversity -- therein lies the hate. But they (the whales) were so close to us, it was ridiculous. Everyone's heart was swelling."

In Tibet, which holds the third largest store of ice in the world, rising temperatures have resulted in a huge surge in tourism, while ships cruising the coastline of Alaska are taking advantage of melting ice and reaching into parts of the region never seen by humans before.

It's a classic conundrum for the modern tourist but one thing is certain. No amount of tut-tutting from the climate change brigade will curb those who are determined to see the furthest reaches of the planet for the first time, even if it is courtesy of global warming.

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