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A carbon offset service that can make your Antarctic holiday carbon neutral.
With Penguin Offset, you can calulate your share of the CO2 greenhouse emissions from the
planes & ships in your Antarctic holiday and then offset these emissions so that your
trip to Antarctic is carbon neutral.

The Chilling Irony of
Last Chance Tourism in Antarctica

One of the fastest growing segments in the international tourism industry is driven by people who want to experience parts of the world before climate change makes them gone. Last chance tourism makes a lot of sense, money and, ironically, climate-changing carbon emissions.

Every day, more and more destinations are becoming eligible for this tourism category because the humans continue to pump hundreds of billions of tons of heat-trapping greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. As a result, our (only) home planet is now one degree Celsius hotter than it ought to be.

One degree Celsius may not sound like much until you consider that the average temperature of Earth is only 15 degrees Celsius; or at least it used to be…

Furthermore, the powerful people who run our carbon-fuelled world so badly show little sign of kicking the fossil-fuel habit anytime soon. So, while the travel destinations on your bucket-list may still be intact at one degree warming, there is 2 degrees warming on its way. After that comes 3 degrees, 4 degrees, and so on, until at some point, all the mammals die of heat exhaustion. And given that tourists are mammals, last chance tourism suddenly takes on a sinister new meaning.

It makes sense that in a warming world, the icy places are going to suffer the most. And there is nowhere icier than the Antarctic; a continent with a four kilometre thick slab of icing on top.

Antarctica is vast and climate change affects it in a multitude of different ways.

While average air temperatures have increased across Antarctica, the body of its ice has actually grown somewhat in the past few years, due to changes in the Polar Vortex winds.

The same cannot be said for the Antarctic Peninsular, the bit that stretches out towards the bottom of South America; this region has warmed considerably. The warming has caused icesheets to melt, vegetation to grow where it shouldn’t, and wildlife at increasing risk.

Driven by human-induced heating, environmental change is taking place in the Antarctic. Meanwhile, tourists are flocking to the region in droves (68,000 passengers in 2014) to see the icy continent before it or their species perishes from climate change.

The chilling irony is that with Antarctic being so big and far away, Antarctic Cruises have huge carbon footprints.

Antarctic Cruises have huge carbon footprints.

But why is this so?

The reason that Antarctic tourism has such a huge carbon footprint is two fold. First, most travellers have to take long haul airflights (burning jet fuel) to get to the ship. Then secondly, the ship travels long distances (burning diesel fuel) to get to the icy places.

Antarctica is huge, and so are the per-person carbon footprints of the tourists. To put this into perspective, lets consider the carbon emissions of a hypothetical Antarctic tourist.

As these folk are predominantly from the Northern hemisphere, let’s consider Larry from London taking a well-earned two-week cruise in Antarctica.

Larry flies from London to Argentina where he joins a ship: 'MV Going Going Gone'.

Long haul air-travel emissions don’t vary much from one plane to the next, so no matter which airline Larry chooses, the emissions will be about the same. As such, Larry's per-person share of the carbon emissions caused by burning kerosene in the jet engines is about 6 tonnes of CO2.

On the other hand, the per-person carbon emissions of an Antarctic cruise depends a lot on the choice of ship; they range from 2 – 6.5 tonnes per person for a two week cruise. Let's assume Larry's ship has an average carbon footprint of around 4 tonnes CO2.

So, Larry’s return trip from London to Argentina by plane, and then to Antarctica for two weeks on a ship, produces ten tonnes CO2e in total.

Larry is an average English person and he produces 6.5 tonnes of greenhouse gas per year in his normal activities.

This means that this single two-week cruise has more than doubled his personal annual carbon footprint.

And this is the chilling irony: the tourist who visits Antarctica before it melts has a disproportionate impact on the mechanism that is driving the melting – burning fossil fuels.

It's like driving a bulldozer to the forest to see the trees
before they are all knocked down by bulldozers.

So, just how big an issue is all the carbon emissions associated with Antarctic tourism?

The total carbon footprint of the Antarctic cruise industry (air travel plus cruise) is about 200,000 tonnes CO2e; equivalent to the emissions of the Commonwealth of Dominica, an island nation in the Caribbean, with a population of 72,000 people.

Put another way, Antarctic tourism accounts for about 0.0007% of the 30 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions that the humans produce every year. This is certainly not enough to get the attention of Governments.

From this frame of reference, Antarctic cruise carbon is a lightweight issue – it doesn't even show up on the radar.

A single ice-curious Englishman is not going to melt Antarctica.

It is a different story when the carbon emissions from Antarctic tourism is viewed from the perspective of the individual tourist. When a simple holiday can double an individual’s annual carbon footprint in a fortnight, Antarctic tourism is a big deal.

For some sources of carbon emissions, there are simple alternatives. For example, coal powered electricity can be replaced with solar and wind.

However, this is not the same for Antarctic tourism. There are no solar powered jetliners and most of the passengers to the Antarctic travel on ships that are fuelled with fossil diesel or (worse) bunker oil.

Given that there is no immediate low carbon alternative, the chilling irony of last chance tourism in the Antarctic might outlive the ice sheets themselves.

Fortunately, there is a way out of this conundrum. Every Antarctic tourist has the option to carbon offset.

Carbon offset provides the public with a way to
neutralise the carbon impact of their activities.

Carbon offset provides the Antarctic tourist with the opportunity to financially support a project that abates greenhouse emissions, in equal measure to the emissions of their trip.

CO2 mixes thoroughly in the atmosphere which means that a project that abates carbon can be undertaken anywhere on the planet.

There are many different types of carbon abatement projects and they do one of two things:

  • remove CO2 from the atmosphere (e.g. through tree planting and soil carbon enhancement)
  • prevent CO2 from going into the atmosphere (e.g. through renewable energy projects that displaces coal power, or energy efficiency measures)

The outcome of both of these processes is that there is less heat trapping CO2 in atmosphere than there otherwise would have been. In this way, the carbon abatement project neutralises the emissions from the Antarctic tourist's trip. The trip then becomes 'carbon neutral'.

In practice, carbon offset relies on the exchange of carbon credits.

Carbon credits are created for each tonne of atmospheric CO2 that is abated. They are created with the intent that they will be retired by matching them against a specific greenhouse emissions source.

A carbon offset service is an intermediary between carbon emissions and the carbon credit that represents the abatement of an equivalent amount of CO2.

Oceanwide Plancius Antarctic cruise ship amid the ice.

Penguin Offset is a carbon-offset service specializing in Antarctic tourism. The service performs three roles for the client:

  • calculate the carbon footprint of your Antarctic trip - both the air travel and cruise components

  • retire an equivalent amount of carbon credits to ‘offset’ your trip

  • issue a Penguin Offset Certificate that allows you to demonstrate that you have acted to neutralise the carbon impact of your trip

Penguin Offset allows Larry of London to ensure that the inevitable carbon emissions from his holiday of a lifetime does not contributed to shortening the lifetime of the very thing he came to see.

What’s more, by offsetting the carbon emissions from the trip, Larry looks good; his transaction come with recognition in the form of a Penguin Offset Certificate.

Get a carbon offset quote for your Antarctic trip today.

Penguin Home  -\- The Chilling Irony of Antarctic Tourism -\- Newsletter Subscribe -\- Contact the Penguin
Climate Change & Antarctica -\- CO2 and Antarctic Tourism -\- Our Carbon Calculator
About Carbon Offset -\- Our Carbon Offset Projects

Tourism in Antarctica - Antarctic Tourism - Climate Change in Antarctica
Other initiatives by sustainability entrepreneur Guy Lane: SEA O2  - Eearth Culture - Guy Lane Fiction Writer - Long Future - Penguin Offset