For many globally minded travelers, tourism offers not just an escape, but a means to support emerging economies. Yet that can be difficult to reconcile with the environmental burdens of the industry. A study published Monday pins some 8 percent of total carbon emissions on global tourism. That carbon footprint raises questions of its own: Who bears the responsibility for it? Individuals? Airlines? Travel companies? Policymakers?
And what about the benefits of travel? Do the dollars going into economies that rely on tourism, and the increased global understanding travel can foster, help mitigate tourism’s damage? Ultimately, researchers say they hope the study will serve to raise awareness for tourists, the tourism industry, and policymakers. Some individuals and private companies have already taken steps to reduce their use of air travel. Other individuals look to carbon offsets to mitigate the harm from their travel. But others see problems with putting too much of the onus for reducing emissions on the individual, saying that global-scale problems require national-level interventions.