Climate Change and Bicycle Touring
With the COP21 Paris climate talks starting this week, I have been thinking about how climate change affects cyclists, and cycle tourists as they explore the world.
As cyclists we feel the wind on our face. We breathe in the clean and the polluted air. We ride through storms and when the sun gently warms us after the chill of an early morning start, we might be reminded of how delicate and all-important our earth and its climate are to us.
Since the founding of TDA Global Cycling in 2002, we have spread ourselves out across the globe. We run cycling tours in over 60 countries, and now on 7 continents. At our head office in Toronto, we all cycle to work year round and we are concerned about climate change here in Toronto and in all the places where we operate our tours.
We have seen unexpected hail storms in Ethiopia. We have seen cold fronts quickly roll in during August on the North American Epic. I recall rain and moderate temperatures in Turpan, China in 2014 on the Silk Route where it is normally extremely hot with very little precipitation. Our group also dodged a hurricane this year in Mexico. Are these evidence of climate change caused by unsustainable human activity? I’m not an expert, but when I hear that Hurricane Patricia was the strongest hurricane EVER recorded, it makes me wonder.
And of course we cyclists are not just passive observers to climate change. We can use bicycles as a sustainable form of transport. But on the other hand, here at TDA Global Cycling, we know that in order to operate tours all over the globe, we also burn fossil fuels to support of tours – through the flights we take, and the diesel we use in our support vehicles to name a few.
Antarctica – the location of our most ambitious project yet – is a much talked about battleground of climate change. In our attempts to expand our reach and continue to prove what is possible on a bicycle, we have to also carefully consider the environmental impact that we are having (read founder Henry’s thoughts on the environment and Antarctica here).
We have supported carbon neutral projects in the past and will do so for our Last Degree project as well. Our company founder Henry Gold has written on several occasion about the environment (such as this one on biodiversity hot spots and suggested Earth Day activities) and we continue to look for ways to do more for our environment.
Promoting cycling is not just a feel good effort. I believe that cycling can be part of the solution. A study by the ITDP and UC Davis showed that cycling and e-biking can cut energy use and CO2 emissions of urban transport by up to 10% by 2050. This has the potential to save society trillions of dollars and reduce the harmful affects of climate change.
Over 140 world leaders are gathering in Paris to talk about climate. There are many initiatives underway to push the leaders to develop a united approach to tackling climate change.
Pole to Paris and London to Paris
This group cycled from London to Paris in time for the COP21 Paris Climate Conference. They will hold a critical mass ride to make a statement of the power of sustainable transportation and what is possible on a bicycle.
This is in addition to two adventurers who have travelled from both the north and south poles to be in Paris for this all-important conference. Check out the video here…
This is another example of how cycle travelers are not only passive observers to climate change but through cycling we have the ability to also be part of the solution to the problem. Whether a global and unified agreement results from the Paris talks, we as cycle tourist have to continue to analyze our impact on the climate in all aspects of our lives and our opportunity to affect positive change.