Some of the world’s most famous heritage sites – from the Statue of Liberty and Venice to the Galapagos Islands – could be irreversibly damaged by climate change, a report has warned.
Historic and natural world heritage sites are already feeling the brunt of increasing temperatures, with rising seas, erosion and storms hitting Orkney’s neolithic coastal treasures and important tropical coral reefs being “bleached” by warmer seas.
Other sites, such as the world-famous stone circles at Stonehenge and Avebury in Wiltshire, are likely to be affected by global warming with changes to wildlife and its impacts on the landscape and the risk of more intense rainfall and flash flooding.
There is an “urgent and clear” need to limit temperature rises to protect key heritage, the study by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), the UN heritage body UNESCO and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) says.
The researchers looked at 31 natural and cultural world heritage sites in 29 countries that are vulnerable to increasing temperatures, melting glaciers, rising seas, more intense weather, worsening droughts and longer wildfire seasons.
Climate change will exacerbate problems, if it is not doing so already, faced by some of the world’s most famous and popular heritage sites, such as the Galapagos Islands, which helped Charles Darwin form his theory of evolution, the study found.
Threats to the unique wildlife caused by 205,000 visitors a year, invasive species and illegal fishing are now being joined by rising seas, warming and more acidic oceans and extreme weather.
Other sites around the world that were at risk from coastal erosion include Easter Island, with its famous head statues, many of which are situated close to the sea, he said.
Elsewhere sites which bring in important tourism revenue could be particularly badly hit, such as Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable national park where rising temperatures could affect the habitat of endangered mountain gorillas.
New York’s Statue of Liberty was badly hit by Hurricane Sandy, and more intense hurricanes are expected with climate change and sea level rises likely to cause more significant storm surges.
Source: The Guardian UK