Climate change is real, people! Ice sheets in Greenland, Antarctica, and the Arctic are melting, which means sea levels will rise all over the world. Not only will it threaten coastal communities and ecosystems, but it could also mean that some of our heritage sites may soon require a SCUBA license to see.
According to a 2014 paper in the journal Environmental Research Letters, more than a fifth of UNESCO’s 720 World Heritage sites are at risk of flooding or complete submersion by 2100!
If global temperatures reach the 3.6-degree Fahrenheit warming limit set out by the Paris Agreement, these heritage sites will soon become partly or completely submerged below local sea level.
1. The Statue of Liberty.
Tall and formidable as Lady Liberty may be, she’s still standing amid waters that are rapidly rising each year. The Statue of Liberty has stood in New York Harbor for 130 years, which isn’t as old as the other items on this list, but the 151-foot tall statue could soon start to deteriorate if the sea level rises up by 3 feet!
2. The Moai of Easter Island
Called Rapa Nui by the Polynesian people who originally settled in the island 2,000 years ago, they’ve become an iconic heritage site in Chile. However, considering they’re near the coast, they’re at risk of being ruined by the sea-level rise and coastal erosion already happening in their tiny island.
3. Sun Temple, Konark, India
This 800-year old temple is located on India’s west coast. UNESCO has called the sanctuary a “masterpiece of creative genius,” and it was constructed by 1,200 artisans over the course of 12 years. However, this masterpiece sits just 7 feet above sea level. That means if just one ice sheet collapses, it can be enough to overwhelm the site.
4. Sydney Opera House
It was dubbed by UNESCO as a “great architectural work of the 20th century.” But considering its placement at just 11 feet above sea level, the building’s may start to deteriorate with rising seas and increasing salt content.
5. The Ruins of Leptis Magna
Located in Libya, this site was once of the crown jewels of the Roman Empire. It’s one of the best-preserved archaeological sites in the world and contains remnants of several great civilizations like Berbers and Byzantium. But with the rising waters in the Sert Bay of the Mediterranean Sea, the ruins could be irreversibly damaged within the coming century.
6. Elephanta Caves
This archaeological site is located off the western coast of India, in Elephanta Island. It’s thought to be around 1,500 years old and houses some of “the most perfect expressions” of Indian art, according to UNESCO. But since the cave is already under pressure from monsoons, pollution, and the ravages of time, it might not be able to withstand the rising seas threatening to engulf the island.
Mont-Saint-Michel is a medieval town atop a small, rocky island in the middle of a muddy bay in Normandy, France. It’s accessible to tourists via mudflats during the low tide, but during the high tide, the island is inaccessible. But with just 2.8 degrees of warming, the base of Mont-Saint-Michel can be submerged in water.
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