Every evening the decaying contrails highlight that litter the evening sky manifest the importance of air traffic to human existence. A global economy is, by definition, a connected economy reliant on various forms of transportation to complete the communication process that might have started through a chance email, or conference meeting or phone call. Business and leisure travel now forms a pillar of the global economy so very few would wish to see it decline. But that same economic generator and connector also uses up earth's precious resources of fossil fuel and the earth's capacity to process and eliminate waste in the form of greenhouse gases. The problem is that planet earth cannot keep pace with humankind's activity and the growth of aviation, which, today, contributes somewhere between 3-4% of gloal emisssions and tomorrow - well who knows, exactly, except that it will increase in both absolute and proportionate terms.
Given this fact, it is amazing that the BC Climate Change Secretariat managed to complete a report on the carbon emissions produced by British Columbia and omit to menton the word tourism and international travel. You can download the report here.
There is reference to domestic travel (on page X) , presumably originating from British Columbia, but the number crunchers chose (?), or forgot to count the emissions generated by visitors to our fair province. Perhaps they hoped they would be measured and accounted for by the source country. But as the Climate Change Secretariat didn't apply an emissions figure to the outbound travel of British Columbians, it is unlikely that other countries will count the emissions associated with their citizens leaving their country. Like the contrails in the sky, these emission figures seem conveniently to disappear from public view.
The emissions associated with international travelers are a "hot potato" that no one wants to catch - partly becaise they are quite large. But given that we enjoy and promote the economic benefits of inbound tourism, it is highly appropriate to measure and discount the costs associated with such activity. I've estimated on the back of an envelope that visitors to British Columbia generate between 11-13 million tons of CO2e - an amount also equivalent to the emissions associated with BC's oil and gas industry - so no small amount. If taxed at $30 a ton, that could generate $390 million a year. Rather than pass on such revenues to the tax payer - why not apply such income to the task of restoring habitats of the animals we use to sell our destination (the salmon, bear, orcas, cariboo etc.) and to convetring the tourism infratsructure over to renewable and non-polluting sources of energy? Given that tourists spend $9 billion a year here enjoying this wild and beautiful but very fragile econosystem, that shouldn't be too much to ask - or should it? Surely, the topic is worth of some serious debate and attention in a public forum?