A new study warns that world cultural landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, the Sydney Opera House and the Tower of London will be lost to rising sea levels caused by climate change. The study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, finds that if man-made global warming continues unabated and temperatures increase 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit over the next 2,000 years, then nearly one-fifth of the earth’s 720 UNESCO cultural heritage sites will be underwater.Sydney Opera House photo from Shutterstock
The study attributes the projected sea level rise to melting continental ice sheets and warming ocean expansion. The team reached their results using spatially explicit sea-level estimates and high-resolution topography data. It’s not just famous cultural landmarks at risk from rising water – at the highest predicted temperature range over the next two millennia 12 countries could lose more than half of their current land surface, and 36 countries stand to lose at least 10 percent of their territory. On the whole, seven percent of the global population is living in areas that will be underwater.
Other cultural sites that could be lost to rising sea levels include the historic city center of Bruge, Belgium; the historic district of Quebec, Canada; old Havana and its fortifications in Cuba; the Hanseatic city of Lubeck, Germany; the medieval city of Rhodes, Greece; the old city of Acre, Israel; Venice, Italy; Hiroshima Peace Memorial, Japan; the historic center of Saint Petersburg, Russia; Robben Island, South Africa; historic areas of Istanbul, Turkey; Westminster Abbey, Westminster Palace and Saint Margaret’s Church in the United Kingdom; and Independence Hall in the United States.
“Our analysis illustrates that the spatial distribution of the existing and potential future cultural world heritage makes it vulnerable to sea level rise. Future generations will face either loss of these sites, or considerable efforts to protect them,” the study concludes.
Via The Guardian