If current trends in global warming continue unmitigated, some of the world’s most well-known and historically significant cultural landmarks could be destroyed by rising global sea levels.
A new study examining the long-term effects of sea-level rise on the 720 spots around the world that have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites found that roughly 20 percent of them could be ruined if temperatures rise 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius) above pre-industrial levels over the next two millennia, said study lead author Ben Marzeion, an assistant professor at the Institute of Meteorology and Geophysics at the University of Innsbruck in Austria.
“I didn’t expect that so many of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites would be affected,” Marzeion told Live Science. “I knew that many of the sites are close to the sea, but I didn’t expect to have such high numbers. If you asked me when I started doing this, I would have said maybe 2 or 5 percent.”
The findings are also worrisome because the scenario imagined in the study
- that is, a temperature increase of 5.4 degrees F (3 degrees C) above pre-industrial levels - is not much more extreme than current climate change projections,
the researchers said.
Back at UMass-Amherst, my advisers asked me to create a sea-level rise vulnerability assessment of lighthouses along the coasts of Maine and Massachusetts. The idea was to create a method to integrate adaptation techniques into cultural heritage protection policies in New England. Pretty interesting concept. Especially since so much history and so many landmarks are located along coastlines. Instead, I did a study of the first tax-payer funded adaptation plan in the world in a tiny city in Denmark.