It’s unlikely that you’ll be reading this, completely oblivious to the current state of climate emergency declared by governments all over the world. Yet it would appear that we sometimes have difficulty placing what we are told on the news within the context of our everyday lives – surely this won’t impact me? We tend to associate the extreme and devastating impacts of climate change with far-flung destinations, but what if I told you that within the next few decades, your travels around Europe could begin to look very different?
Rather frightening statistics reveal that 75% of coastal regions across the continent are at increasing risk from rising sea levels (Climate Change Post, 2019). Throughout recent years, we have become more willing to acknowledge and debate these future predictions. But for a number of cities, this is not a problem for the future, but one for the present.
Venice, Italy is perhaps one of the most obvious cities that finds itself in the danger zone – the city is constructed upon over one hundred little islands, separated via a vast system of canals, all sitting within a tidal lagoon. This, combined with over-tourism and weak infrastructure, means rising sea levels pose a very real and imminent threat, with research indicating that the entire city as we know it could disappear by the end of the century. Amongst other factors, the frequency with which the city floods each year has actually led to a decline in population.
Unsurprisingly, the Netherlands are also facing an increasing risk of flooding – with over 50% of the country already sitting below sea level. Dutch experts have, however, been remarkably forward-thinking in their anticipation of severe flooding. For example, cities are using recreational spaces as their ‘emergency reservoirs’.
Over in Greece, experts have predicted that sea levels will have risen 15cm by 2050, with its low-lying coastal regions facing the highest risk. For example, one of the country’s most-loved beaches and tourist hot-spots, Ornos, in Mykonos, could completely disappear, whilst some of the world’s most protected archaeological sites could also fall victim to climate change-induced floods. Not only could such events be damaging to the tourism trade in Greece, but if adequate safeguards aren’t put in place it could also be incredibly costly.
Denmark has also been identified as a country at risk, due to being comprised of hundreds of low-lying islands. This one perhaps hit me the hardest – after spending my year abroad here and setting my heart on moving back one day, you can imagine how upsetting it was to hear my lecturer rather matter-of-factly tell our class that southern parts of Copenhagen could be largely underwater within our lifetime. However, much like the Dutch, the Danes have been fairly ahead of the game with their Climate Adaptation Plan, also recreating public city parks into low-lying reservoirs, as can be seen with Israels Plads right in the heart of the city. Outside of the capital, there is greater focus upon more defensive structures along the coast.
With this being said, it’s surely not all ‘doom and gloom’, right? We can witness a number of cities tackling the issue and implementing solutions (even if not permanent), and perhaps most importantly on an individual level, the more we acknowledge the issue the more we can do to become conscious explorers and help to preserve our favourite places. Since the coastal areas mentioned often face the greatest pressures from tourism, how can we all be more sustainable travellers?
First off, it’s no secret just how damaging racking up those air miles can be to the atmosphere – but within Europe it has been reported that it is actually cars which are guilty of the most pollution. So why not look into rail travel for your next adventure, and make the most of all available public transport links whilst you’re there – better yet, explore on foot or bike.
Why not embrace all that your destination has to offer and chose to eat and shop local – not only would you be helping to preserve the local culture and its economy in the face of dominating global chain-restaurants/cafes/shops, it also carries a lower carbon footprint.
Just as you might at home, avoid as much single use plastic as possible. Bring your reusable water bottles and coffee cups, purchase refillable travel miniatures rather than grabbing new ones as you rush through the airport, and always be respectful of your environment by taking your rubbish with you!
As always, head to the www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice page for more information on your destination, where you can also subscribe to immediate alerts and updates, including those for natural disasters and climate related disruptions! Follow @travelaware and @sotontravel on Instagram for more travel related hints and tips.
*All sources/figures used courtesy of Climate Change Post, you can find out more about them here: https://www.climatechangepost.com/about-us/