Climate change is destroying World Heritage sites

A new report released last week (26 May) has highlighted how climate change is becoming one of the most significant risks for World Heritage sites.

The report, compiled by UNESCO, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) lists 31 natural and cultural World Heritage sites in 29 countries that are vulnerable to increasing temperatures, melting glaciers, rising seas, intensifying weather events, worsening droughts and longer wildfire seasons.

Some of the world’s most popular tourist sites are at risk, including Venice, Stonehenge and the Galapagos Islands. “Climate change is affecting World Heritage sites across the globe,” said Adam Markham, lead author of the report and Deputy Director of the Climate and Energy Program at UCS. “Some Easter Island statues are at risk of being lost to the sea because of coastal erosion.” He added, “Climate change could eventually even cause some World Heritage sites to lose their status.”

The report recommends that the risk of a site becoming degraded by climate change should now be taken into consideration before it is added to the World Heritage List.

“Globally, we need to understand, monitor and address climate change threats to World Heritage sites better,” said Mechtild Rössler, Director of UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre.

“As the report’s findings underscore, achieving the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global temperature rise to a level well below 2 degrees Celsius is vitally important to protecting our World Heritage for current and future generations.”


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