The recent bushfires in Australia, last year’s wildfires in California, the devastating Typhoon Hagibis in Japan, Type 5 hurricane Dorian destroying large parts of the Bahamas, deadly heat waves in India and even Europe. Only few but dramatic examples of the effects climate change is having on the planet.
Climate change is a topic that is everywhere these days. We all contribute to it one way or the other.
Albeit it is important to keep in mind that we all can contribute to combat climate change and, as travellers should implement steps to help reduce our impact to climate change, this post is less about the actions you can take offsetting your carbon footprint. Instead, I want to take a look how climate change can impact you personally while travelling and what you need to do to stay safe while travelling.
Heat waves can bring transport infrastructure to a halt
Temperatures well over 40°C for days on end in parts of the world that historically have never experiences such extremes are not only stressful for people. 2019 was the second warmest year on record, saw the warmest month ever and some places around the world recorded temperatures they had never reached before.
With such extreme heat, large parts of the local infrastructure are threatened to not withstand such temperatures.
There are examples of asphalt and railway tracks crumbling during long heat waves in Europe in the past few years. Likewise trains themselves were breaking down due to overheating or had to be stopped because air conditioning did not work and temperatures inside the wagons were becoming dangerous for travellers.
Even air travel might be impacted by heat waves since planes are only allowed to operate up to a maximum operating temperature of just below 50°C.
Whilst the latter is likely not going to affect a huge number of travellers, as it is rather extreme taking the car or train during heat waves could mean you need to expect significant disruption in your travel plans.
What can you do?
If transport infrastructure is affected resulting in road closures, or cancelled trains and flights, in most cases the only solution will be to reschedule and travel at a later time.
However, there are some helpful steps you might want to think well in advance when you travel during times when heat waves could strike, i.e. during the hotter summer months.
Book flights early in the day when temperatures are not yet as high. This way, delays caused by high temperatures during the day are still likely limited.
Check if there are night trains available. Again, temperatures will be lower during the evening and night. Plus you might be able to sleep on the train thus you will lose less time visiting new places.
With regards to driving … well again temperatures are cooler in the night. That said, I can’t really recommend to drive during the night even though this is a totally personal decision. If you are planning to visit a destination and drive around or going on a road trip, the best advice I could think of is to avoid the hottest months of the year and go during the shoulder season in spring our autumn.
With increasing risk that weather events could disrupt your travel plans, you should also consider what alternative travel opportunities exist like switching from a train to driving or even flying, or if there are other alternative routes still open that will connect you to your intended destination.
Extremely hot temperatures can impact travellers health conditions
Not only the number of people travelling around the world each year is constantly increasing. Traveller profiles are more diverse than ever before. There are more families travelling with smaller children while on the other end people are travelling until a much higher age. These days, it’s not uncommon for people to travel well into their 80s and over.
However, children and older people are more exposed in hot temperatures increasing the risk they will feel unwell.
What can you do?
If you are falling into one of the groups the most exposed to extreme heat, consider to plan your visit during times of the year that are less hot. Shoulder season (spring and autumn) might offer a lot of advantages other than more balanced temperatures like lower prices and less people visiting.
Should you travel during hot periods, make sure to stay hydrated, don’t get exposed to the sun over longer periods of the day and do not engage in overly exhausting activities.
To know more how to protect yourself when travelling during a heat wave, read my post How to cope with heat waves while travelling.
Increasing dangers from cyclones, typhoons, hurricanes and extreme monsoon rains
There are regions around the world which are known to experience severe weather events during certain times of the year. For example, the hurricane season along the US east coast typically stretches from mid May to end November, in southeast Asia the monsoon season typically starts in May or June and lasts into October and November.
That said, you should be aware that a cyclones, hurricanes or however these severe storms are called can happen anytime, not only during a particular season albeit the risk they will occur during off-season is normally limited.
Whilst severe storms have always taken place in the past, they have become much more frequently and significantly more severe. Hurricanes classified as Type 5 are no exception any longer.
When a hurricane (or cyclone, typhoon) strikes you can expect severe disruption. From transport infrastructure to power losses, shop closures, and other normally common social services available in an area you might experience times of a partly or complete shutdown.
What can you do?
With most of these events typically taking place during a determined time of the year, you are likely best off avoiding to travel to a destination during hurricane or monsoon season.
If for some reason you can’t avoid this time of the year, you should be aware of some of the basic measures taking place when such an weather event strikes.
For example, let’s say you are visiting the Florida Keys during hurricane season. What might happen is that you will be forced to evacuate the area. Get information beforehand about evacuation, where you need to go and so on.
The good news is, destinations exposed to the thread of hurricanes etc. typically have systems in place to deal with these events. This starts with detecting a nearing hurricane days before it actually strikes.
Therefore, make sure you follow local news to not miss a potential warning and make sure you follow instructions by local authorities if such a warning is given. For example, if you are told to stay indoors, do so. If there are evacuation order, make sure you leave right away.
Ski resorts might face a lack of snow in future
If you love skiing, and do so regularly, you will know that finding excellent or just nice conditions skiing can be something of a lottery. Some years, there is not much snow or it does not stop snowing which means limited visibility and thus ski slopes might be closed.
That said, periods of very limited or no snowfall at all will become increasingly the norm in many destinations that in the past were deemed as places you could expect to find good skiing conditions during the winter / skiing season.
For example, the current skiing season in Europe battles with a severe lack of snow even in the Alps as well as Scandinavia.
A few years back, ski resorts in the Whistler area in Canada did face a similar fate albeit the past few winters saw more snow in the US and Canada along with extended skiing seasons.
However, whilst some regions currently benefit from a longer winter season, this is likely a phenomenon that is going to run its path in a short while. With average temperatures still increasing globally, less snow and shorter winter seasons will more likely become the norm.
What can you do?
You need to be prepared skiing seasons will become significantly shorter whilst some destinations might altogether vanish from the skiing map. This means, do your research where and when you can expect good skiing conditions and plan around these places and timings.
When at your destination, make sure to follow local news. With increasing sudden changes in weather patterns, the risk level is rising too. For example, sudden mild temperatures can lead to early melting, increasing the risk of avalanches. Ski resorts will typically provide updates on risk levels and security measures on the slopes.
Artificial snow and smart ski slopes might keep some destinations skiable but in this case you might have to except higher prices, especially as creating artificial snow is energy intensive and will require destinations to offset the negative effects on the environment.
You should also come prepared for the eventuality that conditions are not good enough for skiing. Pack accordingly and have shoes and clothes that will allow you to go on a hike instead of skiing.
Flying will become more expensive
Working in market research in my day job and writing market outlooks, the first thing I’ve learned when starting my carrier was never to state something will happen. something might happen, there might be a good chance something is going to happen – but always leaving a back door in case the prediction is wrong.
Well, seeing how climate change is already impacting everybody around the world and some of the measures that governments and corporations are starting to implement to offset emissions already leading to higher prices, one thing is very clear: In future, you will have to pay more for your flight.
What can you do?
The most important question that you have to ask yourself both considering ticket prices and the impact of flying on the environment certainly is: Do you need to take a plain or can you also reach your destination by train in a similar efficient and quick way?
For example, if you travel across Europe, taking the train might be a great alternative.
If you really have to fly, there is not much to offset a general increase in ticket prices. However, there are ways to plan four flights more efficiently and potentially secure a better rate.
The tricky thing is that you do not necessarily get a cheaper ticket if you book early. In fact, sometimes a ticket can cost less if you book you flight closer to your flight date. All depends on the occupancy rate.
To make sure you get the best available price for your ticket, check out websites like skyscanner.com which allows you to search for lower prices for your flight. The app digs into more than thousand different sources essentially searching millions of flights and will give you the most convenient options based on cost, quickest or easiest route. It also lets you search for the cheapest times (days, weeks, months) to fly to a desired destination.
Has climate change already had in impact on your travels? Which one? Let me know about your experiences.