July 11, 2023

The climate change road trip: revealing how popular global tourist destinations could look by 2050

For many of us, the idea of a road trip is something we dream about. Driving through beautiful landscapes and traveling the open road can be a great way to see the world and truly immerse yourself in your surroundings. For this reason, roads across the world have become famous for their road trip potential and sightseeing opportunities.

However, with global warming continuing to have an impact on the planet, we're already starting to see the effects of climate change. From the melting of glaciers in the Arctic to warmer summers than ever before, it's safe to say that the environment is changing before our very eyes in real-time. With that being said, how might these renowned road trip routes look in the near future if climate change continues to progress at the current rate?

To find out more about the impacts climate change could have on road trip destinations, we at DiscoverCars.com have partnered with environmental specialist and sustainability analyst Marish Cuenca to analyze the potential scenarios that could have an effect on the appearance of popular destinations across the globe.


Greater Cairo, Egypt

Greater Cairo is an extremely popular destination for travelers, particularly those traveling by car. Home to the world-famous Pyramids of Giza and the bustling city of Cairo, this region has something for everyone. Outside of the busy city traffic, Greater Cairo is mostly made up of open desert landscapes that make for a truly breathtaking and adventurous holiday experience.

Looking ahead to 2050, this region could look considerably different. According to environmental expert Marish Cuenca, the threat of urbanization means that much of this desert could soon be transformed into towns and other urban areas that take away from the rurality of the current landscape.

Additionally, sea levels are gradually rising, causing erosion to the limestone that makes up the majority of the land in the area. This erosion is expected to cause acid rain, as limestone deposits are absorbed into the waters which then evaporate and fall as rain. Although this rain will not be acidic enough to harm human skin, it will cause further damage to the marble and limestone structures throughout Greater Cairo – including the pyramids themselves.


Manila, Philippines

The capital of the Philippines, Manila, is another popular destination for travelers taking a road trip. Surrounded by plenty of open roads, the city is a common pit stop during road trips. Manila is known for its bustling nightlife, stunning architecture, and abundance of culture – including plenty of museums, theaters, and more.

However, rising sea levels pose a severe threat to this "Pearl of the Orient", with the city predicted to be below sea level by 2050. This is, of course, a severe blow for tourists looking to experience everything that this beautiful city has to offer – although those most affected will be the 1.8 million people1 that call Manila their home.

One of the most popular roads in the city is the Metro Manila road that passes through Intramuros – an area that is home to Spanish-era landmarks and shrines from Manila's time as part of the Spanish empire. Unfortunately, alongside the majority of the city, this road is expected to be entirely underwater by 2050.

Okinawa Island, Japan

The beautiful island paradise of Okinawa Island in southern Japan is a popular tourist destination for those visiting the country. Home to pure, white beaches and pristine waters, the island is a stark contrast to the ultra-modern popular holiday destinations on the mainland – such as Tokyo.

The island is accessible to drivers via the famous Kaichu Road – a long road-bridge that runs between the mainland and Okinawa Island, providing 360° views of the Philippine Sea.

Unfortunately, due to both its location and small island status, Okinawa Island is at a very high risk of becoming submerged by rising sea levels by 2050. Located in what is known as "typhoon alley", the island is regularly hit with severe storms – something that is expected to get a lot worse in the near future.

According to Cuenca, sea levels in Japan are expected to rise by up to 1 meter by the end of the century2 – which means that any locations near the ocean are at risk. Being that Okinawa Island is relatively small and surrounded by water, this ultimately means that the island is likely to suffer increased coastal erosion and flooding.

Kolkata, India

The Indian city of Kolkata is another popular tourist destination, home to the picturesque Howrah Bridge that connects Kolkata with the neighboring city of Howrah. Formerly India's capital city under colonial rule, Kolkata is now famous for its Imperial architecture – including the grandiose Victoria Memorial. Connected by a series of large roads, Kolkata is a popular stop on a road trip expedition.

Sadly, Cuenca warns that – due to its riverside and coastal position, Kolkata is likely to become mostly submerged by 2050. Rising sea levels as a result of the melting ice caps are already having a significant impact on the city, with frequent annual flooding causing damage to the region on a regular basis3.


Queensland, Australia

Australia as a whole is home to some fantastic strips of open road, with many locations being highly spread out from one another – making it the perfect place for a road trip.

Queensland, in particular, is home to Daintree National Park – one of the most biodiverse rainforests in the world. Having such a fantastic location right on its doorstep, with a winding road passing right through the middle, it's no surprise that many tourists flock to Queensland for a driving holiday each year.

Unfortunately, rising temperatures have led to an increase in the number of bushfires experienced in Australia in recent years. According to Cuenca, bushfires – caused by high temperatures and drought – are expected to get much worse by 2050, with much of the Daintree National Park expected to have become badly damaged.

Cuenca compares the potential future destruction of Daintree to recent bushfires that have decimated forests surrounding the Gospers Mountain fire in New South Wales, Australia.

On top of the threat of wildfires, urbanization poses a significant threat to the rainforests at Daintree, with some of the park already being converted into residential living.

Hawaii, United States

The beautiful island state of Hawaii in the United States is home to idyllic beaches, perfect for surfing, alongside thrilling views of active volcanoes and rolling green hills. Hawaii as an island is a popular destination for road trips due to its winding coastal roads and scenic landscapes, although tourists cannot drive to the island from any other location.

However, due to its location and numerous volcanoes, it's anticipated that Hawaii will see an increase in the number of natural disasters by 2050. As climate change causes extreme weather events, such as drought and increased rainfall4, it's expected that many of the coastal roads around Hawaii will collapse into the ocean. Landslides are also expected to become more common.

Although Hawaii is no stranger to having some dramatic volcanic eruptions, Cuenca expects to see a lot more volcanic activity across the island by 2050 – with increasing lava-flow eruptions and earthquakes causing significant damage to road surfaces.

North America

New York, United States

New York City is quite possibly one of the most famous destinations in the world, attracting thousands of tourists every year. The "Big Apple" attracts people from all over the world, offering views unlike anywhere else. Although the city is known for its traffic, that doesn't stop travelers from incorporating the city into their road trip plans.

Sadly, the future doesn't seem so bright for the big city if climate change continues at its current rate. According to Cuenca, by 2050, we could expect to see much of New York underwater – due to rising sea levels. Currently, there are proposed barrier measures that could be implemented around the Manhattan area to help reduce the level of flooding in the near future.

According to the NYC Panel on Climate Change, sea levels in New York are expected to rise between 8 inches and 30 inches by the 2050s and as much as 15 inches to 75 inches by the end of the century5.

Additionally, there are predictions that sulfurous, sulfuric, and nitric acids in the atmosphere could cause an increase in acid rain by 2050 – leading to additional damage to the countless limestone statues and structures throughout the city, including the famous Cleopatra's Needle.

California, United States

The state of California in the United States is an extremely popular destination for travelers on a road trip, due to having many famous roads that are perfect for a relaxing or exhilarating drive. Popular routes include the Pacific Highway, offering stunning views as you pass alongside the coast on a gently winding road. Meanwhile, the vast California deserts offer towns filled with oddities and sightseeing opportunities.

Known as the hottest place in the world, California's Death Valley is no stranger to heat. The region recorded the hottest reliably measured temperature in Earth's history for two years in a row in 2020 and 2021, reaching a staggering 130° Fahrenheit (54.4°C) in July 20216. However, according to Cuenca, this could increase exponentially by 2050 – leading to extreme heat waves that cause mass drought and wildfires.

This severe heat could lead to roads melting, making road trips far less comfortable in this area. Frequent wildfires could make visibility more difficult, due to increased levels of smoke and ash in the air.

Additionally, increasing sea levels could make coastal routes increasingly more dangerous to drivers, with the threat of flooding becoming more likely.


South Tyrol, Italy

One of the most iconic road trip destinations in the entirety of Europe, Stelvio Pass, is located between South Tyrol and Bormio in Italy. This series of gradually inclining, winding roads allows tourists to travel by car across the Ortler Alps – a picturesque mountain range that offers fantastic views to travelers.

Unfortunately, due to the structure of the roads and their location along a mountain slope, the Stelvio Pass is at significant risk of severe damage due to climate change by 2050.

Cuenca predicts that the roads making up the Stelvio Pass are likely to suffer from landslides caused by excessive rainfall, along with an increase in earthquakes leading to extreme cracks in the road and potentially even collapse at the edges of the roads.

London, United Kingdom

Another highly popular tourist destination for drivers is London. The English capital offers modern cityscape views, with plenty of tourist attractions, museums, galleries, and more for travelers to enjoy. The city can be prone to excessive traffic during certain times of the day, but that doesn't put off tourists planning a visit.

By the year 2050, however, this beautiful city could look a lot different – according to environmental expert Marish Cuenca. Due to rising sea levels, the majority of the London docks and any suburbs near the River Thames are anticipated to be submerged by 2050.

This will have a significant impact on some of the most prominent tourist attractions, including the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament, and London Bridge.

Traveling more sustainably

Unfortunately, it is undeniable that the travel industry is contributing a significant amount towards climate change. However, there are positive strides being made all around the world – with many airlines switching to more fuel-efficient models of planes that produce less carbon emissions. Similarly, many cruise providers have made the switch to more environmentally friendly ships that produce less carbon emissions and pollution to the world's oceans.

While these steps are undoubtedly important, there are several things that individual travelers can do to travel more sustainably when going on a road trip. Cars are a substantial contributor to CO2 emissions, but there are some secrets to traveling in a more environmentally friendly way:

Don't overdo it with vehicle size

One of the best ways to keep your carbon footprint down when traveling by car is to use a suitably-sized vehicle. Although there may be a temptation to choose a larger vehicle, especially during a road trip, these vehicles typically have a higher carbon output. So, if you are able to choose, you should opt for a car that is the right size for the number of travelers using it.

Drive slowly

The harder a car's engine has to work, the more carbon emissions it will release. A good way to keep your carbon footprint lower when on a road trip is to drive more slowly, at a maximum speed of 65 mph. This helps to put less strain on the car's engine, which in turn reduces the amount of carbon emissions the car creates.

Keep an eye on your tire pressure

Similarly to the last point, low tire pressure will place more pressure on the engine as the car will feel heavier and less streamlined. By keeping an eye on your tire pressure and ensuring it doesn't get too low, you can help to keep your vehicle running more efficiently – reducing carbon emissions.

Final thoughts

Although it can be concerning to think about the damage that climate change could cause to popular tourist destinations, it's important to remember that it isn't too late to undo some of the damage that has already been done.

By being more mindful of our driving habits when we travel, we can all help to reduce the impact of global warming and, hopefully, prevent these major-scale changes from taking place. A road trip is a great way to see the world and really enjoy all that a location has to offer, but we should always try to drive in a thoughtful way that reduces our carbon footprint.

If you are looking for a rental car for your upcoming trip, we are always here to help. DiscoverCars.com is a leader in online car hire, comparing car rental deals from many big-name providers to find the best fit for both your travel plans and budget restrictions.


We spoke to the environmental specialist Marish Cuenca about how 10 popular destinations could change across Africa, Asia, Oceania, North America, South America, and Europe by 2050 as a result of climate change.

Marish Cuenca is an Environmental Specialist and Sustainability Analyst with multiple years of experience.

Cuenca's credentials include:
  • President, Faculty Association (2021-2022) Samuel Christian College
  • President, Student Council CSCSGS (2020-2022) De La Salle University Dasmariñas
  • President, Program Council of Environmental Science and Physical Science CSCSGS (2020-2022) De La Salle University Dasmariñas
  • Member, PHILARM, PAPSI, FORESPI, NRCP Virtus et Excellencia Awardee-Gawad Agham 2022
The new AI Photoshop function has been used to create images showcasing what the locations could look like by 2050.


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Here are some other places that you may want to visit before they're changed permanently due to climate change.

Aleksandrs Buraks

Head of Growth at DiscoverCars.com
Aleksandrs has over 10 years of experience in marketing with a focus on creating stellar content that provides topical insights using data. Having taken five road trips across Europe and one in the U.S., he is passionate about traveling by car. His favorite countries to visit are Denmark and Thailand. You can find him on Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter.