It's the end of tourism as we know it

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A new paper released last month presents a summary from the Business Travel Coalition, âeoeBeyond the Airlines $2 Can of Coke, Catastrophic Impact on the U.S. Economy From Oil Price Trauma in the Airline Industry.âe Itâe(TM)s about the impacts of high aviation fuel prices and the imminent impact on airlines. The associated trickle-down economics seem pretty clear.

It will affect everything.

Then there was the recent stunning presentation from the Director of NASAâe(TM)s Goddard Space Institute, Dr. James Hansen, to the National Press Club on June 23, 2008.

It seems in Canada that the âeoeGreen Shiftâe proposed by the federal Liberals is a necessary shift. Carbon taxes, even lower carbon dioxide emission targets and many other mitigations and adaptations will soon be part of the new carbon economy.

Where will tourism shift? My sense is that tourism as we know it today globally, and nationally in Canada, is about to be revised in ways that we just do not know and cannot predict. And these changes will come with a speed that we have never seen before.

This will have implications for any projections and discussions at the national level, at the provincial level and at the local level. I think, more and more, that âeoeour touristsâe are going to be regional tourists, not international or U.S. arrivals.

My sense is that his will be a composite result of high gas costs (which are here to stay), the collapse of many airlines and associated supply management issues on food and other air-transported things and our various individual and national responses to adapt or mitigate to a global CO2 target that has to be reduced much more than we thought. Now, more than ever, itâe(TM)s time to be creative and collaborative.

Dr. James Hansenâe(TM)s address to the National Press Club in the U.S. was a 20 years later update of his June 23, 1988 testimony to Congress that global warming was underway. This time, though, his presentation provided direct reference as to why the tipping point is near.

Hansen explained: âeoeThe disturbing conclusion, documented in a paper I have written with several of the worldâe(TM)s leading climate experts, is that the safe level of atmospheric carbon dioxide is no more than 350 ppm (parts per million) and it may be less. Carbon dioxideis already at 385 ppm and itâe(TM)s rising about 2 ppm per year. Stunning corollary: the oft-stated goal to keep global warming less than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) is a recipe for global disaster, not salvation.âe

Hansen says the European Union target of 550 ppm of C02 - the most stringent in the world - should be slashed to 350ppm. He argues the cut is needed if âeoehumanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed.âe

The team studied core samples taken from the bottom of the ocean, which allow C02 levels to be tracked from millions of years ago. They show that when the world began to glaciate at the start of the Ice Age about 35 million years ago, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere stood at about 450ppm. âeoeIf you leave us at 450ppm for long enough it will probably melt all the ice - thatâe(TM)s a sea rise of 75 metres. What we have found is that the target we have all been aiming for is a disaster - a guaranteed disaster,âe Hansen told the Guardian.

The fundamental reason for his reassessment was what he calls âeoeslow feedbackâe mechanisms that are only now becoming fully understood. They amplify the rise in temperature caused by increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases. Ice and snow reflect sunlight but when they melt, they leave exposed ground that absorbs more heat.

As ice sheets recede, the warming effect is compounded. Satellite technology available over the past three years has shown that the ice sheets are melting much faster than expected, with Greenland and west Antarctica both losing mass.

The good news? According to Hansen, reserves of fossil fuels have been exaggerated, so an alternative source of energy will have to be rapidly put in place in any case.

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