Environment

The Vacation Industry Is Making Millions off the World Falling Apart

Climate change presents long-term challenges to the travel and tourism industries, but in the short term it's providing opportunities for profit.

Tourists are flocking to areas affected by climate change that previously did not rank as vacation hot spots.

Cruise ships can now access regions of the Arctic that weren't previously accessible, and Greenland has become a more popular vacation destination as climate change reshapes its landscape.

The Greenland Ice Sheet is drawing travelers to the country. The second-largest body of ice in the world is melting at record speed, Science Daily reported.

About 30,000 people took cruise ships to Greenland in 2010, double the number in 2004. Another 30,000 visitors arrived by air, Scientific American reported.

Photographer Alban Kakulya took a three-week trip to Greenland in 2009. "Some people we met there were saying things like, 'I want to visit Greenland before it completely disappears. I want to see polar bears before they are completely extinct,'" he told Scientific American.

Molly Schriber, 22, visited the area in 2010. "When you're flying into Greenland, you almost feel like you’re going into outer space," she told Scientific American. "You look at the ice sheet, and it's like nothing you’ve ever seen before."

The cruise ship industry is also raking in profits from new routes through the Arctic.

ATTN: previously reported that a new Crystal Cruise excursion now threads its way through the Northwest Passage in early August — at a cost of $22,000 per ticket. It's a voyage that only climate change made possible.

Crystal Cruise

The region has seen a surge of tourists in recent years, Bloomberg reported.

Cruise ships aren't the only way people are visiting the area.

"Some organizers use a dash-in, dash-out approach, departing and returning from Greenland," Bloomberg reported. "Others rely on expedition-style ice breakers, a specialized type of ship that, as the name suggests, breaks up ice as it travels."

Polar Cruises offers ice-breaker tours of the Arctic and charges between $6,000 and $10,900 for a trip along the coast of East Greenland to Iceland.

The travel industry is helping to reduce climate change while it makes money off of it.

It is possible for the industry to take steps to reduce the effects of climate change even as it profits from it, if you believe their press announcements.

Carnival Cruise Lines announced that it was recognized for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in 2015 by the international sustainability nonprofit organization CDP.

"We have a focused commitment to the environment, our guests, and crew, and we are proud of achieving an exemplary score for our corporate climate change transparency," Carnival vice president of maritime policy and analysis John Haeflinger said in a statement.

Even so, the cruise line is anticipating more climate effects. "Change in mean temperatures could open up new routes and ports" and "change in precipitation [might] make some ports more attractive," Carnival told Mother Jones.

Economists predict that the warming climate will create new tourist hubs in colder regions of North America, Eastern Europe, and Asia.

The irony of climate change tourism is clear: People are traveling more to threatened regions. But they're traveling on airplanes and ships whose carbon emissions contribute to the same environmental problems that threaten these areas.

An international report on World Heritage and climate change removed a portion about the Great Barrier reef so not as to hurt Australian tourism, the Conversation reported.

It's hard to observe the Arctic's influx of visitors without pondering what will happen when the vanishing "natural wonders" become less wonderful.