DAVOS - GLOBAL warming will produce stay-at-home tourists over the next few decades, radically altering travel patterns and threatening jobs and businesses in tourism-dependent countries, according to a stark assessment by UN experts.
The UN Environment Programme, the World Meteorological Organisation and the World Tourism Organisation have said that concerns about weather extremes and calls to reduce emissions-heavy travel would make long-haul flights less attractive.
Holidaymakers from Europe, Canada, the US and Japan are likely to spend more holidays in or near their home countries to take advantage of longer summers, they add.
In a report for a UN conference here on climate change and tourism, they project that global warming would reduce demand for travel between northern Europe and the Mediterranean, between North America and the Caribbean, and between North-east Asia and South-east Asia.
'The geographic and seasonal redistribution of tourist demand may be very large for individual destinations and countries by mid- to late-century,' the agencies say.
'This shift in travel patterns may have important implications, including proportionally more tourism spending in temperate nations and proportionally less spending in warmer nations now frequented by tourists from temperate regions.'
However, overall travel demand is expected to grow by between 4 and 5 per cent a year, with international arrivals doubling to 1.6 billion by 2020, the report adds.
In some developing and island states, tourism accounts for as much as 40 per cent of national economic output.
Officials from tourism-dependent countries such as the Maldives, Fiji, the Seychelles and Egypt told the conference that shifts in travel choices and ecological damage from global warming pose serious threats to their businesses and jobs.
Meanwhile, a climate change report released in Australia projects that the world's driest inhabited continent is set to get even hotter and drier.
At low emissions of greenhouse gases, warming of between 1 deg C and 2.5 deg C is expected by 2070, with a best estimate of 1.8 deg C, according to the report by Commonwealth researchers and the Bureau of Meteorology.
At high emissions, the best estimate is warming of 3.4 deg C in a range of 2.2 deg C to 5 deg C.
Rainfall is forecast to decrease by up to 20 per cent by 2070 in southern Australia if greenhouse gas emissions are low and by up to 30 per cent if such emissions are high.
Temperatures in Australia have already risen by 0.9 deg C since 1950, producing the hottest year on record in 2005. The present year could eclipse that in key areas.
Also, frequently recurring droughts will be more severe because of higher temperatures. There will be even less water for irrigated crops, which include grapes, cotton and rice, and even dryland crops such as wheat may be threatened.
The report also predicts fewer frosts and many more days of over 35 deg C temperature.