Climate change resources for Key Stage Five (ages 16 - 18)
How will climate change impact upon patterns of global tourism? How will climate change impact upon patterns of recreation, sport and leisure? Will climate change result in British consumers paying "green taxes"?
Tourism can be defined as travel away from home for recreation or leisure. Tourist activity may last no longer than a day (day-trippers) or may have a longer duration of several weeks. Some types of travel - such as gap years - may last up to one whole year. However, a movement that lasts for more than one year is usually regarded as migration.
Tourism is part of the tertiary or service sector. Its roots are sometimes said to lie with the spa towns of the Victorian age. At this time, low average incomes made tourism the exclusive preserve of a minority of rich people. However, rising incomes over time have allowed more people to become consumers. Rising wages (achieved through a combination of political campaigning and the opening-up of higher education opportunities) have allowed mass tourism to develop.
Changes in working patterns - with more people entitled to longer annual holidays and the abandonment of Saturday working and schooling (for the majority) - have left people with more time for consumption of tourist services.
Tourism is sometimes a vital tool for local economic development. Visitors spend money which can initiate a local multiplier effect. This involves greater amounts of money circulating in a local economy, allowing threshold levels for additional higher-order services to be met. If effective, the process becomes self-sustaining and circular.
Natural resources, such as physical landscape or coastline, are often vital to the success of tourist ventures. For instance, ski resorts rely on the continued presence of snow to make their economies sustainable. However, historical and cultural resources for tourism are also important (such as the associations a region may have with a particular writer or film e.g. New Zealand has benefited from the filming of Lord of the Rings there).
How will climate change impact on the UK's tourist industries?
Climate change will bring challenges and opportunities for tourism in different parts of the UK. In the short-term, it could be perceived as "good news" for coastal resorts, especially in northern England (e.g. Blackpool and Southport) where cooler weather deters visitors out of season.
Even further north in Scotland, many tourist workers suffer from seasonal unemployment. Visitor numbers are so low out of season that many businesses shut down until summer returns, especially in the Highlands and Islands region. Could warmer temperatures bring better conditions for workers?
Unfortunately, the complexities of climate change do not necessarily guarantee a brighter future for northerly tourist resorts. Warmer temperatures will result in increased evaporation over the North Atlantic which could bring enhanced frontal rainfall to northern and western areas of the UK. In most climate change projections, summer and winter rainfall actually increases over the north of the UK.
Tourism in parts of northern Scotland is also vulnerable to climate change on account of an over-reliance on snow-boarding and skiing. As a result of lower snowfall and greater rates of melting, some climate change experts are predicting that the entire Scottish ski industry will cease to exist by mid-century. Since the late 1980s, the number of ski days enjoyed by Scottish resorts has fallen by a quarter, while the number of lift passes sold has fallen by a half. Both Glencoe and the Glenshee ski resorts are now for sale. (Swiss technicians - facing similar worries - have recently used special insulating PVC foam to protect parts of the Gurschen glacier, which is currently receding by about five metres a year.)
A further threat to tourism in coastal and low-lying regions is the projected sea-level rise that will result from thermal expansion of the oceans as temperatures rise (as well as an increasing volume of melt-water from land-based ice in Greenland and Antarctica entering the oceans). Known as eustatic changes, these could threaten coastal resorts in southern England. Settlements such as Swanage could lose sea-front properties and experience a drop in trade.
Student Practice Question:
Explain why the popularity of tourist destinations can vary over time.
The answer could start by looking at visitor pressures, trampling and pollution all leading to a decline over time. It might then proceed to discuss the Butler model, market saturation and visitor over-familiarity further impacting upon visitor numbers. However, the threat that climate change brings - especially to ski reports - is definitely also worth investigating.
Tourism has changed from being a mostly national activity to become an increasingly international phenomenon with people traveling further afield more and more frequently. This is part and parcel of globalisation. A growing level of interconnectedness has developed between different societies, environments and consumer cultures. This change has been aided by:
Improved technology (faster aircraft and trains)
Rising wealth (more people can afford international flights)
Falling prices of travel as economies of scale develop (operators can afford to offer greater numbers of deals as customer numbers rise and overheads are more easily met)
Greater awareness of what foreign destinations offer (thanks to TV, film and the internet)
Internet booking (allowing greater ease of ticket purchasing e.g. EasyJet)
Political changes such as the development of the European Union (which has led to more relaxed border controls between participating member states)
International tourism is sometimes seen as a useful strategy for many poorer countries who lack a manufacturing base and are over-reliant on primary (agricultural) exports. Tourism is seen as a way of boosting gross domestic product (GDP) of nations and of lessening their dependency on aid and loans.
Now that there is a growing global concern over the impact of flying, might some countries begin to suffer the adverse effects of receiving fewer foreign visitors?
How will climate change impact upon patterns of global tourism?
Some political commentators believe that the era of cheap international travel may now be approaching an end, due to:
raised ethical concerns over the environmental cost of flying (people are more concerned with reducing their carbon footprint)
higher green taxes imposed on flights by governments (the 2007 UK Budget doubled air passenger duty from £5 to £10 per passenger)
a raised perception of risk associated with some destinations (e.g. hurricanes in Florida or terrorism in the Middle East)
However, statistics for air flights leaving the UK suggest that it could be a long while before global tourist markets actually show any signs of contraction. With demand for flights in the UK growing at 5% per annum, flights are expected to double over the next thirty years. As well as Heathrow’s planned third runway, twelve other UK airports, including Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Southampton, Norwich and Swansea, are planning large-scale expansions.
Another reason why international tourism is set to keep growing - despite fears over the impact of aeroplanes on global carbon emissions - is the spread of wealth to previously developing countries. Even if greater numbers of people in MEDCs refuse to fly in future, large countries such as China and India are home to a growing number of wealthy shoppers who will be keen to travel for the first time. China now has 30m affluent consumers who can afford to take international holidays and this number is set to increase steeply in coming years.
It is also possible that the risks associated with some destinations (such as the hurricane-hit southern states of the US) will just lead to other international destinations becoming more favoured instead (such as New York, Canada or New Zealand). Therefore, while there is no immediate sign of fears over climate change reducing the numbers of tourists taking international flights, it may be that patterns of tourism will change in the short-term if some regions are increasingly perceived as being at risk from the impacts of climate change (e.g. Caribbean nations in "hurricane alley").
Examine the factors that influence changing patterns of global tourism
Important ideas include cultural linkages (e.g. common language) between countries, the role of the media in promoting destinations and the natural and historical resources that different destinations possess. But a good answer could also describe climate change as a factor that may modify patterns in the future. Might Florida be perceived as less safe than before? Might ethical consumers start to avoid long-haul flights?
More people can engage in recreation, sport and leisure in the UK than in the past due to:
rising incomes (as more people have entered higher education and proceeded to professional work) allowing people to spend more money on leisure pursuits (such as attending rock festivals e.g. Glastonbury)
greater amounts of free time at weekends (now that many industries - and schools! - no longer insist on Saturday working as they did in the recent past)
longer annual holidays for most workers (with a three-week legal minimum now in place in the UK)
the rise of self-employment and flexi-time working (where employees can take on extra workload at the start of the week and then take Friday off, in lieu)
government promotion and funding of leisure activities in areas receiving regional aid (e.g. Highlands region)
the rise of "short-break" tourist industries that promote all-year-round weekend leisure packages at spa resorts
With these changes, opportunities for sports and leisure services have ballooned, whether we are talking about snowboarding, music festivals, stamp collecting or paint-balling. Sports and leisure are now a particularly vital part of the economy of many post-industrial cities in the UK. Settlements such as Liverpool and Manchester have actively sought to re-brand themselves as sites of leisure and recreation. This is part of a response to the challenges of deindustrialisation (the decline of traditional industries based around docks and manufacturing). For instance, the huge contribution that football and music make to these cities' economies should not be under-estimated.
How will climate change impact upon patterns of recreation, sport and leisure?
Possible impacts of warmer temperatures upon patterns of recreation, sport and leisure could include:
Changes in the time of year when some sports can be played
An expansion in some sports, such as surfing and yachting, along the south coast and elsewhere
Changes in the places where some sports and games can be played (ski and snow-boarding resorts may not survive in Scotland if warmer temperatures mean that they no longer receive or retain enough snow)
Changes in working hours and leisure patterns, more in line with Mediterranean countries (perhaps the siesta will be adopted!)
However, it must be remembered that in some regions, warmer temperatures may also be accompanied by wetter weather. As a result, the changes described will not occur uniformly throughout the UK.
National Parks and SSSIs (Sites of Special Scientific Interest)- both of which are popular sites for weekend recreation for many families - could also be adversely affected by climate change. The Government agency Natural England has voiced concerns that nature reserves for protected species may not work in the future "because of climate change". Species may move elsewhere in search of a climate they prefer if conditions change where they currently live - how will that affect the status of currently protected areas? And their importance as areas of recreation and leisure?
Why are some sporting activities concentrated in certain countries and not others? (for Edexcel B)
As well as explaining the environmental, social, economic and political factors that lead to some sporting activities being concentrated in particular places, this essay could also address how such patterns might now be modified as a result of climate change. In particular, the potential re-location of ski and snow-board activities could be investigated.
Governments frequently tax consumer goods and services as way of raising money for health, education and defense. Green taxes are financial charges that a government adds to the cost of polluting activities or services, such as air flights or car travel. Many world governments, concerned with climate change, are now investigating the possibility of introducing green taxes. These are are dditional levies that will serve to:
raise money that can be used to slow the rate of climate change (e.g. car taxes could be used to build more sustainable forms of public transport that are less polluting per capita)
slow down consumption and encourage re-use and re-cycling
However, this is a controversial issue. Will the taxes raised definitely be re-invested in sustainable technologies (and not just be used as an additional source of revenue for existing health and welfare services)? And will governments genuinely set out on a course of action that could reduce levels of consumption of goods and services (given that this could impact adversely upon national economic growth)?
Will climate change result in British consumers paying "green taxes"?
Can the needs of the economy and the needs of the environment ever truly be reconciled with one another in sustainable ways? At the same time as the UK government is planning to allow an unchecked expansion of the aviation industry in the UK (with new runways generating more wealth and jobs), it is also desperately trying to raise awareness of the dangers of increased carbon emissions (even sending a copy of the Al Gore film "An Inconvenient Truth" to every school!).
Are green taxes really going to work in societies whose economic growth depends upon ever-higher levels of consumption?
Consumption is at the heart of post-industrial economics. Industrial economies were based on the production of manufactured goods (such as Sheffield's manufacture of steel and cutlery). Whereas post-industrial societies have economies that rely far more on services such as retailing and tourism. These activities involves moving ever-increasing numbers of products around the globe for sale in shopping malls and retail parks, as well as encouraging people to travel to and from far-off destinations.
For instance, Liverpool's "City of Culture" initiative (2008) hopes to boost the city's economy by attracting visitors from all over the world, all well as by building a giant new shopping complex in Paradise Street. Green taxes in the future could harm both sets of activities.
Other problems with the implementation of green taxes could include:
Unpopularity with voters (nearly 2m Britons recently signed a petition objecting to government "road charging" proposals)
They may have a weakened effect if people are prepared to pay the extra cost and do not consume less as a result
Examine how urban environments can be made more sustainable
A typical answer to this question will look at a range of environmentally-friendly schemes and policies, one of which could be green taxes or congestion / road charging. However, a good answer might additionally ask if long-term economic growth is actually compatible with stricter environmental controls such as green taxes - and if not, does the settlement actually have a "sustainable" future?
Investigative work could look for evidence that climate change is impacting upon coastal resorts in the UK (with statistical analysis of visitor-numbers and changing global or local temperatures over the last two decades). Of course, any correlation will need to be thought about critically: rising affluence and the advent of online booking through the same period could also account for changes in visitor numbers (observed impacts may thus be multi-causal). Such a resort study may very well conclude that climate change is initially having a positive impact on UK coastal resorts. But will business be sustainable if temperatures rise further? And what about sea-level rises?
More generally, the challenge of climate change could also be turned into a central theme for any investigation that looks at attempts to stimulate economic development through tourism (including urban / rural "re-branding" schemes). Where an enterprise relies upon the physical environment (climate, coast, ecosystems), could the physical resources for tourism be under threat in future? Also, might tourist-based industries suffer if green taxes are introduced in response to the threat of climate change? Green taxes might reduce tourist numbers and reduce levels of consumption. An inquiry title such as "To what extent does The Jurassic Coastline provide a sustainable future for Swanage?" could certainly explore both these themes.
Other suggestions for practical-based inquiries include:
How climate change is impacting upon Scotland's skiing industries (or European equivalent)
How gardens are changing (earlier onset of spring & different species)
How local garden centres coped with the drought of 2006 / 2004
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