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Tourism spike to Antarctica could accelerate warming in region, experts warn

In this image, a large group of people sit in a boat on ice water in the Antarctic
Tourists visit South Shetland Islands, Antarctica, Nov. 8. Photo: Johan Ordonez/AFP via Getty Images

40% more tourists are expected to flock to Antarctica this season compared to last year, AFP reports, citing data from the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators.

Why it matters: Experts interviewed by the AFP believe that this increase in Antarctic tourism could pose a risk to the region, which is already contributing a growing amount to global sea level rise.

The big picture: Arctic and Antarctic sea ice fell to their lowest-recorded levels this July, according to NOAA, and microplastics have been detected in remote parts of the region. A study from earlier this year found that warming ocean waters — partially caused by human-caused climate change — are weakening ice shelves in Antarctica.

Where it stands: The average tourist trip to Antarctica generates over 5 tonnes of CO2 emissions per passenger, Michael Hall, expert on polar regions at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, told AFP.

  • Antarctica's melting ice could be accelerated by "soot or black carbon in the exhaust gases of the scientific and cruise ships going to the region," Soenke Diesener, transport policy officer at German conservation NGO Nabu, told AFP.

Go deeper: Antarctica is losing ice 6 times faster than in 1980s