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Halving emissions within ten years

March 10, 2022

Climate researcher advises tourism industry to make greater efforts to reduce CO₂

Humankind is currently on a “path to disaster”, but if, instead of slow changes, there is a radical response to climate protection, it is still possible to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. This was the positive view expressed by Prof. Dr. Johan Rockström, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research and Professor of Earth System Research at the University of Potsdam, in his keynote speech at the Responsible Tourism Track on Thursday. And the tourism sector can also be part of the solution.

Rockström began his paper by emphasising the vital importance of attaining the 1.5 degree objective. A sharp rise in global warming, by 2 degrees, for example, would pose the risk of a two to six metre rise in sea levels. Moreover the planet Earth could exceed several critical tipping points. Already, according to Rockström, the Amazon rain forest has lost much of its resilience. Melting of the ice in the northern polar regions could impact on the Gulf Stream, leading to fires and drought in the Amazon region, as well as warming the water in the southern oceans, which in turn could accelerate the melting of Antarctic ice.

Everything is interconnected: this was the central point being made by the researcher, who pointed out that individuals or companies on their own do not have the power to reverse this trend. “We face a fundamental system failure, and such system failures cannot be corrected by any individual”, said Rockström. However, entrepreneurs can use their maximum endeavours to protect the climate and the natural world. Moreover, the providers of tourism services have an opportunity to constantly raise this subject in discussions with their guests, encourage them to embrace sustainability and explain to them how the vacation experience can be made more positive.

Prof. Dr. Johan Rockström also encouraged tourism companies to join a worldwide business initiative aimed at reducing CO₂ emissions, the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). “It is not a question of achieving overnight carbon neutrality, but emissions have to be reduced by between seven and ten per cent annually”, Rockström explained. For most companies this is an achievable target. “If emissions can be halved every decade then we are heading in the right direction”, Rockström stated.