… with Dr. Lučka-Kajfež Bogataj, Professor at the Biotechnical Faculty of the University of Ljubljana
During her presentation, Dr. Lučka-Kajfež Bogataj highlighted some basic and yet essential facts. There are now 6.7 more people in the world than 200 years ago; we need five times more energy than we did; water is our most critical and threatened resource; climate changes are cumulative, and possibly irreversible; and the average person on the planet travels 40 kilometres per day. The latter statistic may not seem much, especially to urbanites used to long commutes, but the key issue is “cumulative”.
According to Dr. Bogataj, we must begin to understand the direct and indirect effects of tourism on climate change. We know, she suggests, how to adapt on a local level but we need to also change how we think about and act upon climate change globally. As a climatologist, she points out that the climate change challenge is “a three-headed dragon” implying emissions, population growth, and lifestyle. And the world is actually three to four times richer than it once was, but “Nobody wants to be poor again,” she says. With increasing global wealth comes the need for more energy. “Out of nothing comes nothing,” says Dr. Bogataj. Everything is interconnected.
She also emphasizes that there is not one future but multiple futures, and multiple future climate effects. The Mediterranean is already hotter and as a tourism destination may well become less attractive for travel and tourism consumers. “Helsinki today,” she says, “will become like the climate of Zagreb…. The infrastructure of Berlin is made for Berlin, and not for Rome. The Baltic may become the new Mediterranean.”
Dr. Bogataj also made reference to an issue that many in the travel and tourism industry may not have thought of: the safety and security of tourists. Climate change also means ecosystematic changes, biodiversity loss, new diseases (“Malaria can reach Canada… tourists die.”). Climate change also produces violent weather and consequent geographical events like landslides. Tourists are potentially at greater risk from weather, especially in certain “hotspots” on the planet. And these areas will become less popular, thus declining in terms of their economic health. Flying of course will become very expensive and therefore destinations whose target markets can really only be reached by air will also decline. And despite the increase in global wealth, there is the potential for an overall decline in GDP which in turn means fewer people travelling.
Dr. Bogataj does, however, present positive scenarios in that she says climate change is within the control of human beings — we can adapt. Inactivity in terms of climate change, however, is the worst scenario. Creating effective travel and tourism strategies on a global level to mitigate the effects of climate change is the only real future.
In October 2008, the World Federation of Journalists and Travel Writers (FIJET) held its annual World Congress in Slovenia. Climate change was a focal issue of the event.