The 108-page paper–titled “World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate”–is a joint project of UNESCO, the United Nations Environment Program, and the Union of Concerned Scientists, and it reveals that many of the world’s most iconic sites are increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of global warming, as reported by Hyperallergic.
The researchers examined 31 at-risk World Heritage properties in 29 countries, focusing on some of the most popular tourist destinations around the world, including Easter Island, the city of Cartagena, Columbia, Shiretoko National Park in Japan, South Africa’s Cape Floral Kingdom and many more. The results, compiled from peer-reviewed science papers, technical reports, site-specific evaluations, and input from local experts, are dire, and show that climate change poses a real threat to the world’s history.
The report also featured in-depth case studies of sites like Venice and the Statue of Liberty. “One-hundred percent of the assets at Liberty National Monument are at ‘high exposure’ risk from sea-level rise due to the extremely low elevation of the island and its vulnerability to storms,” says the report.
As for Venice? “The city’s extraordinary assemblage of Byzantine, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture is under immediate threat from rising sea levels,” states the report. The effects of rising sea levels are already causing problems in the canal city, with frequent floods damaging the city’s renowned architecture. “The water level in the lagoon will continue to rise, eating away at the substance of the buildings as damp spreads up the brickwork,” the report states.
Don’t expect to see anything about the effects of climate change on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, though. In a controversial move, the government intervened to have it removed from the report, The Guardian reported.
The report also takes a close look at the effects of tourism on the same sites, particularly those with “uncontrolled or poorly managed visitor access.” The findings also said that “tourism can play a positive role in helping to secure the future of many World Heritage sites in a changing climate,” especially the ones like Venice that rely on tourism dollars to survive.
Read the full UNESCO report here.
By Melissa Locker