Climate Change a Threat to World Landmarks

climate changeA report published recently in Environmental Research Letters described a long-term risk to many of the world’s landmarks if global warming continues. The study looked 2,000 years into the future, but the authors argued that global warming could produce noticeable effects this year.

Natural treasures like the Florida Everglades could also be in danger around the world. The same rise in sea level that makes it possible to paddle a boat up the Statue of Liberty would drown natural landmarks around the world. In the nearer term, rising sea levels could combine with storm surges to do more damage.

A temperature increase of 3 degrees Celsius could put 20 percent of the world’s landmarks under water. The base of the Statue of Liberty would be reachable by boat. The French Quarter in New Orleans, the Sydney Opera House and the Tower of London would be in danger, along with the entire city of Venice, Italy.

The same temperature change could raise sea levels enough to submerge land now home to 7 percent of the world’s population.

While the effects predicted in the study might not reach their worst for centuries, the report did not account for storm surges. Any increase in sea level would logically make storm surges worse. In addition, the report’s estimates for temperature increase and sea level rise are on the “conservative side” according to a summary presented on Science Daily.

The research, by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, focused on UNESCO World Heritage sites at risk from rising seas. Researchers found that for each 1 degree Celsius increase in temperature more World Heritage sites would come under threat of being flooded. Climate change really is a threat to hundreds of landmarks around the world.

Some cities have begun taking steps to protect themselves. London has the Thames Barrier, a system for protecting downtown from storm surge and flash flooding. Venice has its Moses flood-protection system.  Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a $20 billion flood-protection program after Hurricane Sandy caused so much flood damage.

This study released last month, takes on new significance in the light of two developments this week. Gallup published another article on the 2014 results of their Environment Poll. This article revealed that Americans favor environmental quality over economic growth by 51 percent to 40 percent. Republicans favor economic growth, while Democrats tend to call environmental quality more important.

Results published by Gallup last week show that 80 percent of Americans expect global warming to have in effect at some time, with 54 percent saying the effects have already begun. The March 20 Gallup report states that 44 percent of Americans think the quality of the environment is “good” or “excellent” and 11% think environmental quality is “poor.”

Also, a report released yesterday warned of the danger that industrial civilization due to overconsumption of resources, wealth, and social inequality. The research will be published in an upcoming edition of the journal Ecological Economics. That report had a timeframe of 1000 years but two of three scenarios showed total collapse before that.

Climate change is a threat to more than just the world’s cultural landmarks of course. The report in Environmental Research Letters just gives a long-term view of another part of the problem.

By Chester Davis

Science Daily

Discovery News


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