The Statue of Liberty, Venice, Stonehenge, Galápagos islands and Easter Island are among the 31 natural and cultural world heritage sites in 29 countries that are threatened by climate change, according to a new report. Titled “World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate,” the study was launched by UNESCO, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) at the UN Environmental Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya.
“Globally, we need to better understand, monitor and address climate change threats to World Heritage sites,” said Mechtild Rössler, director of UNESCO’s World Heritage Center. “As the report’s findings underscore, achieving the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global temperature rise to a level well below 2°C is vitally important to protecting our World Heritage for current and future generations.”
The report finds that the iconic tourism sites are vulnerable to increasing temperatures, melting glaciers, rising seas, intensifying weather events, worsening droughts and longer wildfire seasons. Scientists involved in the study stressed the importance of global warming mitigation, stating that reducing greenhouse gases and restoring ecosystems in line with the Paris Agreement is “vital for the future of World Heritage.”
According to the study, climate resilience will be important to protecting the sites. Venice is taking action on climate change adaptation with the building of the Mose flood barrier project.
The report is not without controversy. It was revealed that the government of Australia pressured UNESCO to remove any mention of Australia in relation to the country’s wold heritage sites, including the Great Barrier Reef. The scrubbing of any references to Australia comes at a time when 93 percent of the Great Barrier Reef has been hit by coral bleaching. While Australia claimed it would impact tourism, Will Steffen, a scientific reviewer of the report, called the tactics reminiscent of “the old Soviet Union.”
Via The Guardian