Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Sea-level rise threatens world heritage sites

Liz Kalaugher in Environmental Research Web: Sea-level rise could threaten cultural world heritage sites, as well as people and infrastructure, near the coast as climate warms. Almost one-fifth of the world’s 720 cultural and mixed heritage sites will be at risk within the next 2000 years if temperature rise reaches 3° above pre-industrial levels, researchers from Austria and Germany have found.

 “Humanity has to take fundamental decisions,” Ben Marzeion of the University of Innsbruck, Austria, told environmentalresearchweb. “Do we look at the impacts [of climate change] and say ‘it was nice to have these cultural heritage sites for a few centuries – let's move on and forget about their future’ or do we want to take actions that will allow us to keep them for future generations? The way we are acting now, we are putting expiration dates on our cultural heritage.”

Together with Anders Levermann from Potsdam University in Germany, Marzeion looked at sea-level rise over the long term for different levels of warming. The pair’s data allowed for thermal expansion of the ocean, ice-sheet melt, glacier melt, changes in the Earth’s gravity field from mass relocation and rotation changes, and the response of the Earth’s crust. Tides, storm surges and subsidence, all of which could bring inundation at an earlier stage, were not included.

 “Almost 20% of the world heritage sites currently enlisted by UNESCO, and about 7% of the currently inhabited places, will be affected directly by sea-level rise for even [a] seemingly modest 3° of global warming,” said Marzeion. “This illustrates the magnitude of the problem we are passing on to future generations.”...

The Sydney Opera House is a World Heritage Site, shot by Christian Mehlf├╝hrer, User:Chmehl, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license 

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