Climate Change Threatening UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Image: PHOTO: Canal Grande, Venice, Italy. (photo via Ron Lima/Dreamstime)
Image: PHOTO: Canal Grande, Venice, Italy. (photo via Ron Lima/Dreamstime)
Donald Wood
by Donald Wood
Last updated: 10:25 AM ET, Thu October 18, 2018

A new report released Tuesday reveals many UNESCO World Heritage sites are being threatened by the effects of climate change.

According to Nature.com, 47 of the 49 historical sites along the Mediterranean basin are now at risk due to rising sea levels and/or soil erosion, including Venice, the medieval city of Rhodes, the Patriarchal Basilica of Aquileia and more.

The United Nations' climate science panel said in 2013 that sea levels around the world would rise as much as 76 centimeters by century's end, but recent studies revealed the original projections were too conservative.

"Sea level rise may become a larger threat to World Heritage Sites than a present-day once-a-century storm surge," the study revealed. "Present day 100-year events in the Mediterranean may occur much more frequently, up to several times per year, by 2100."

While World Heritage sites like the monuments of Ravenna and the Cathedral of St. James in Sibenik could be moved if needed, UNESCO officials said their relocation could impact the "outstanding universal value" of the sites.

"Heritage sites face many challenges to adapt to the effects of sea level rise, as it changes the value and 'spirit of place' for each site," report co-author Sally Brown said.

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