Climate change threatens Statue of Liberty, Easter Island

Famous world heritage sites, such as the Statue of Liberty, Venice and Easter Island, are at risk from climate change, according to a new UN report.

Climate change is fast becoming the greatest threat to some of the world’s most iconic heritage sites worldwide. Easter Island and the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific, Stonehendge and Venice in Europe, the Statue of Liberty in North America, even South Africa’s Cape Floral Kingdom — these are among the 31 natural and cultural world heritage sties in 29 countries that are vulnerable to increasing temperatures, melting glaciers, rising seas, intensifying weather events, worsening droughts and longer wildfire seasons, according to a UN statement.

The report, which was produced by the UN heritage body UNESCO, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), reiterates the need to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius to protect “our world heritage for current and future generations”.

“Climate change is affecting world heritage sites across the globe,” said Adam Markham, lead author of the report. “Some Easter Island statues are at risk of being lost to the sea because of coastal erosion. Many of the world’s most important coral reefs, including in the islands of New Caledonia in the western Pacific, have suffered unprecedented coral bleaching linked to climate change this year.”

The report calls on world governments, the private sector and tourists to coordinate their efforts to reduce carbon emissions and protect the world heritage sites from the impact of tourism. It also urges policies that decouple tourism from environmental harm to promote responsible behaviour in both the private sector and tourists.

As the Guardian reports, the costs of failing to act now could be enormous. For example, a sea defence being built around Venice to protect it from rising sea levels could end up costing more than USD 6 billion. Other sites are at risk of being lost forever, including Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable national park, where rising temperatures could reduce the habitat of the endangered mountain gorillas, writes the Guardian.

 

Image credit: Frank Kehren, flickr/Creative Commons

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