Media reporting of the current climate emergency seems entirely focused on the plight of British tourists. Yesterday it was the turn of Rhodes, where wildfires have forced the evacuation of 19,000 holidaymakers. The BBC Today programme on Radio 4 spent ten minutes on the tourist crisis before asking could this be a warning sign of climate change!
Yes it could! Wild fires have been raging for days in Europe, North America and Asia. Food supplies are threatened. Transport and other infrastructure are being impacted by the extreme heat. Melting ice caps mean that cold wet air is being drawn into those areas outside the fire zone, bringing violent storms and flooding.
But the plight of the tourists does cast a light on the priorities of the travel industry. One holiday maker was flown in by Tui and sent straight to an evacuation centre because her hotel had been cut off by the fires. Tui is now cancelling flights to Rhodes. This is in line with most operators, apart from Easy Jet who are still flying holiday makers in while organising repatriation flights for those who have been forced to evacuate.
The tourists themselves face a dilemma. Unless the tour operators cancel or the government issues advice not to travel, they will still be liable for the full cost of their holidays and unable to claim on their travel insurance. A spokesperson for the Association of British Travel Insurers said that insurance was primarily to cover against medical emergencies not climate emergencies and “is unlikely to provide cover if you are unable to go outside on holiday because of a wildfire”. Claims by ABTA that “the safety of customers is the number one priority” have a hollow ring to them.
Meanwhile, what is the fate of the local residents left behind in these tourist hotspots as thousands of tourists flee for their lives? They bear the immediate cost of the climate emergency and will continue to do so in the long term, as climate change destroys their tourism industry and other local businesses. They have also witnessed the destruction of their local environment and the deaths of large numbers of wildlife.
Back in Britain we saw the other side of the climate emergency, as flooding caused havoc in the north of England over the weekend. Remember the fuss about Just Stop Oil causing minor disruption to a gay pride march at the beginning of July? Northern Pride had to close their festival site in Newcastle because of the adverse conditions that Just Stop Oil is trying to prevent. 15,000 people had their event totally disrupted by flooding. At the London Pride March seven Just Stop Oil protestors were arrested by the Met. So far no oil company executives implicated in the climate emergency have been arrested by Newcastle police.
When Just Stop Oil briefly interrupted the second test match at Lords, there was outrage in the media. But there was no outrage against the perpetrators of global warming when the unseasonable rain ended the fourth test at Old Trafford on Sunday. Perhaps the English will take climate change seriously now it has ended their chances of winning the Ashes. If not, we can expect a lot more ashes when the wildfires move north and expose our own woeful lack of preparedness.