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The Carbon Cost Of Polar Bear Viewing Tourism In Churchill, Canada

J. Dawson, E. Stewart, Harvey Lemelin, D. Scott
Published 2010 · Geography

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This paper examines the paradoxical issues surrounding long-distance tourism to view polar bears, a form of tourism which is disproportionately (on a per capita basis) responsible for greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions that are negatively affecting survival chances of the species. It also notes that the phenomenon of “last chance tourism” is influencing more tourists to visit the region. The paper describes and explains the evidence that climate change is causing a substantial reduction in sea ice, vital for Arctic wildlife species survival, particularly mega fauna, such as polar bears. Churchill, Canada is one of the few places where tourists can easily view polar bears. A total of 334 on-site tourist surveys and 18 in-depth interviews were conducted to help evaluate tourist perceptions of climate change and to estimate their GHG emissions related to polar bear viewing tourism. Polar bear viewing tourists perceive climate change to be negatively impacting polar bears but do not necessarily understand how they themselves contribute to GHG emissions, or understand offsetting possibilities. The polar bear viewing industry is estimated to contribute 20,892 t/CO2 per season. Mitigation strategies, including reduction and offsetting programs are outlined.
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