A visit to Hamilton Island on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, two hours by air from Brisbane, illustrates some of the complexities around the challenge of global warming.
While the dire predictions of the Barrier Reef’s demise may be premature, warmer sea temperatures and increased carbon levels are certainly stressing this natural wonder.
Hamilton Island itself, developed in the 1980s to satisfy the global demand for paradise holiday resorts, has all the bells and whistles. Perfectly manicured grass lawns, a marina, championship golf course, palm trees, swimming pools with loungers and ubiquitous white golf carts all resonate with humanity’s unconscious imaginings of paradise.
While serviced by a daily ferry from the mainland, most guests arrive on scheduled flights from Australia’s major cities. It was, after all, cheap convenient air travel that allowed such resorts to develop.
But carbon emissions from jet aircraft have been identified as a major cause of global warming. One can dismiss Prince Harry’s public shaming for private jet travel and the growing trend of “flygskam” as being the lunatic ravings of European tree-huggers, but July saw France introduce a carbon tax on air travel and transport modes for family holidays on the continent are now seriously discussed by Britain’s up-and-coming professionals.
Airlines emphasise the increased efficiency of the latest planes, but the quantity of air travel is still increasing exponentially and electric or eco alternatives are not yet on the drawing board.
When the connection is made, paradise resorts are going to be in trouble. In fact, some already are. Atlantis Paradise Island in the Bahamas had a narrow miss from Hurricane Dorian and Hamilton Island must expect more destructive cyclones.
Closer to home, Madagascar has defended the SA coast from most cyclones in the past, but climate change may allow the storms to track further south. A far bigger threat to our struggling economy will arise if “flygskam” encourages Europeans to forgo their annual winter break in SA and stay at home.