Report eyes global warming threats to World Heritage sites

Floods, wildfires and rising seas put famed tourism areas at risk

Český Krumlov
Severe flooding due to global warming is seen as a threat to the Český Krumlov world heritage site in the Czech Republic, according to a new report. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

United Nations leaders say that famed World Heritage sites around the world are facing a significant threat from climate change. Increasing floods, melting glaciers and more wildfires are among the risks cited in a new report from UNESCO’s World Heritage Center.

“Globally, we need to better understand, monitor and address climate change threats to World Heritage sites,” said the center’s director, Mechtild Rössler. “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.”

The report, “World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate” was jointly released by UNESCO, the United Nations Environment Program, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. It lists 31 natural and cultural World Heritage sites in 29 countries that are vulnerable to climate change, including important tourism destinations like 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. Many of the world’s most important coral reefs, including in the islands of New Caledonia in the western Pacific, have suffered unprecedented coral bleaching linked to climate change this year,” Markham said, adding that climate change could threaten the world heritage status of some sites.

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