Leiper, N, Braithwaite, RW & Witsel, M 2008, 'Aircraft contrails contribute to climate change: whole tourism systems are appropriate contexts for research on sustainable tourism', Tourism Analysis, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 103-116.
Article available on Open Access with the published version made available in ePublications@scu with the kind permission of the publisher.
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Environmental activists and concerned scientists have suggested since the 1970s that jet aircrafts' contrails, also known as vapor trails, might be having undesirable effects on the environment. In 2001, an unusual but scientifically rigorous research project, testing this hypothesis, found that contrails do have an environment impact. On busy routes the effects are significant and serious, similar to the effects of greenhouse gases, resulting in climate change. The present article discusses implications of this for sustainable tourism and ecotourism. Almost all research to date on these linked topics has focused exclusively on destinations. Knowledge about the effects of contrails adds weight to the evidence and belief that sustainable tourism and ecotourism cannot be achieved by attempts to sustain destinations if other elements in whole tourism systems are being damaged by tourism. A comprehensive understanding of tourism's environmental impacts and research on sustainability requires, as the unit of analysis, whole tourism systems.