Coastal England’s Climate Is Changing – And That’s Not All

In my travels, I keep seeing examples of how our aggressive, high-powered, corporate-driven society is just accepting the reality that the climate is changing. Flood gates (like this one in Portsmouth) are being built on streets that never needed them before, in anticipation of storm surges becoming more common and more damaging.

Flood barrier on path

Last month, Germany — a land with very little air-conditioning because, until now, it hasn’t been needed — suffered through record-breaking heat. It’s been sticking around: They’ve had 30 days in a row of 90-to 100-degree weather. I’ve been told that river cruise travelers are angered that, with rivers so low in Germany, they are abandoning parked boats and bussing three hours to promised sights. Gardens in Italy are being ripped up by freak hailstorms. In my personal world, the Iditarod dog race in Alaska that my sister participates in has become an annual rocky slog — even with a course that has been relocated to find some snow. And my family’s cabin retreat in Washington’s Cascade Mountains is threatened by persistent forest fires.

When it comes to global climate change, we travelers — who burn fossil fuels with every intercontinental flight and bus tour — are contributing to the problem. I am determined to grapple with the consequences of climate change by finding a way to make those who travel with Rick Steves’ Europe Tours in 2016 carbon-neutral…or better.

Assuming you care about climate change, how can a jet-setting traveler explore the world in a carbon-neutral way? I’d love some advice.


5 Replies to “Coastal England’s Climate Is Changing – And That’s Not All”

  1. Travel on a sailboat, there are hundreds of islands in the Mediterranean, it is not possible to visit them all in a lifetime.
    The Islands in Greece are close together, most have a great number of archealogical sites, many of which are unknown to the general public.
    Olympia, Delphi, Epidavdros and many more can be accessed by a short bus ride from the coastal ports.

  2. Hi Rick,

    I am from the South West of the UK so I know first hand the changes that are already happening, combined with a degree in Climate Change.

    I would say that changing modes of transport would be the first place to make a change but still maintain the freedom to travel. Of course getting from the US would require a flight these days, but internally within Europe avoiding short haul flights would be one of the most effective methods of reducing travel based carbon emissions – short haul flights are far more CO2 intensive per mile travelled than long haul ones.

    The most obvious choice is a switch to rail transport, which is fortunate in Europe as there is no better multi national train system in the world. Couple this with the fact that there is a decline currently in the amount of long distance overnight trains in Europe, perhaps someone of your influence would be able to promote this method of travel which is highly under-appreciated, and efficient for time, money and emissions.

    High speed trains can also provide a method of travelling between major European cities from centre to centre, in times that are easily comparable to fights once you include travel to the airports and check in times.

  3. Tours to small or out-of-the-way places in Europe will probably always require a bus, for at least part of the journey. That is already more efficient than the same number of people renting ten to fourteen cars to visit the same places.

    That said, the most obvious place to find energy savings is the bus itself. Alternatives could include natural gas-powered buses, better insulation in the roof of the buses to avoid heat gain, and possibly solar assists for the AC. When a group is exploring a village and comes back to the bus two or three hours after they left it, the bus is running and the AC is on, so it isn’t stifling for the first 15 minutes of the drive. If the large rooftop could accomodate solar panels to either run the AC or at least keep the bus well-ventilated with the fan, the bus engine wouldn’t need to be burning fossil fuels just to keep the bus cool.

    Germany seems to be way ahead of the U.S. in use of solar panels on buildings, so it may be the ideal place to investigate the state of the technology for vehicles.

    I hope you can make progress in the carbon-neutral quest. I would hate to think that you would need to eliminate the wonderful agriturisimo or olive mill visits from the Village Italy tour.

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