How to Offset Your Travel’s Impact on Climate Change
Research came out this week that shows travel is an even bigger contributor to climate change than previously realized.
How much bigger?
According to the BBC, “tourism is a huge and booming global industry worth over $7 trillion, and employs one in ten workers around the world. It’s growing at around 4% per annum.
Previous estimates of the impact of all this travel on carbon suggested that tourism accounted for 2.5-3% of emissions.
However in what is claimed to be the most comprehensive assessment to date, this new study [by the journal Nature Climate Change] examines the global carbon flows between 160 countries between 2009 and 2013. It shows that the total is closer to 8% of the global figure.”
This figure takes into account more than just air travel, it also considers the ancillary costs associated with travel like increases in the “energy needed to support the tourism system, including all the food, beverage, infrastructure construction and maintenance as well as the retail services that tourists enjoy.”
This is personally challenging for me, as a frequent traveler who wants to help curb climate change and be a good steward of the environment. I began looking into ways I can offset my contribution to climate change, and I’ve found a couple of good options I wanted to share.
So how can you offset your trip if you like to travel?
Option 1: Plant a tree for a dollar!
According to One Tree Planted, 300 billion tons of carbon are stored in the Earth’s forests, which helps regulate its climate by regulating atmospheric gases, stabilizing rainfall, and protecting against desertification.
One dissenting caveat, according to a 2014 New York Times op-ed (To Save the Planet, Don’t Plant Trees), “climate scientists have calculated the effect of increasing forest cover on surface temperature. Their conclusion is that planting trees in the tropics would lead to cooling, but in colder regions, it would cause warming.”
“Planting trees and avoiding deforestation do offer unambiguous benefits to biodiversity and many forms of life. But relying on forestry to slow or reverse global warming is another matter entirely.
The science says that spending precious dollars for climate change mitigation on forestry is high-risk: We don’t know that it would cool the planet, and we have good reason to fear it might have precisely the opposite effect. More funding for forestry might seem like a tempting easy win for the world leaders at the United Nations, but it’s a bad bet.”
The practical upshot of this is… planting trees may do some good, but it may not be the best solution… and it may do more harm than good.
Option 2: Calculate Carbon Footprint and Support Effective Projects
I got curious about what my carbon footprint actually is, and that’s when I found the nifty calculators at the carbon offsetting company My Climate.
Then I learned that they offer multiple price-packaged options to offset my impact by immediately donating to projects like “helping farmers in Nicaragua with reforestation” or “enabling efficient cookers for women in Kenya.”