Thursday, May 28, 2020 Edition: U.S. & World | Regional

World Heritage Sites Threatened by Climate Change

With talks of climate change causing global concern, we generally worry about glaciers and migratory birds. However, these kinds of things are not the only ones at risk—many UNESCO World Heritage sites are threatened by impending disaster! Should the seas and the temperature continue to rise, many of our most beloved natural and man-made monuments would pay the price. We’ve already lost the Great Barrier Reef, which was recently proclaimed dead. We may lose more, from forests to historic villages. If things don’t change, here are more of our beloved heritage sites that could be lost.

1    Old Town Lunenburg, Canada

This is a British colony that was founded in 1753. It’s located in Nova Scotia, at the edge of the sea. It’s pretty much exactly the same as it was all those years ago, but it might not have much of a future. This seaside community is built right out onto the ocean, supported by low docks. If the sea level rises only a few feet, the buildings will be standing in water and quickly be destroyed.
Old Town Lunenburg, Canada
2    Venice, Italy

Venice is one of the world’s most stunning cities. If you’ve never traveled the historic city by canal, then it’s probably on your to-do list! Better do it soon, though, because rising water levels could eventually force the waterways to be changed and many of the historic buildings to crumble. The rising of the water level will spell the end of Venice as we know it. Many other cities that aren’t on the UNESO World Heritage list are also at risk.
Venice, Italy
3    Rice Terraces in the Philippine Cordilleras

You may never have heard of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it has been around for 2,000 years. This is a series of rice fields built into the side of a hill by the Ifugao people. It once sustained the local people through the rice it produced, and today it sustains it through the tourism it attracts. Although it has survived for so long, lately it has been crumbling away. Heat and increased rainfall have been causing erosion and landslides. If the climate continues to change for the worse, the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras will vanish forever.
Rice Terraces In The Philippine Cordilleras
4    Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda

This World Heritage Site is a haven for endangered species. It contains about half the remaining endangered mountain gorillas, which are threatened by human activity. Changes to their forest habitat could cause disease and loss of land. The gorillas have already suffered shortened lifespans and loss of their natural habitat.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda
5    The Statue of Liberty

If waters continue to rise due to climate change, even the Statue of Liberty is at risk! She stands only a few meters above sea level, which means she would be one of the first to go if the water levels rises significantly. We can only hope that she won’t end up the way we saw her in Planet of the Apes, washed up on the shore somewhere.
The Statue Of Liberty
6    Yellowstone National Park

While fires are a natural part of the forest life cycle, too many fires are definitely bad news. For Yellowstone National Park, this is a particular hazard. Yellowstone contains some of the most incredible natural wonders known to mankind, including interesting geothermal formations. Of course, it also includes forest- and a lot of it! Yellowstone is made up of over two million acres of land, and it is inhabited by valuable species such as buffalo. Lately, the air has been drier in Yellowstone. This leads to a heightened risk of forest fires; if these fires consume too much of Yellowstone, the wildlife will be homeless in a burned woodland.
Yellowstone National Park
7    Cape Floral Region, South Africa

This region covers 1.3 million acres, and it contains incredible biodiversity! However, many species in the Cape Floral Region are at risk because of the warmer and drier temperatures caused by climate change. In addition, a recent increase of forest fires is threatening to wipe out wildlife in sections of the region. This would be detrimental to both the health of Cape Floral and the ecotourism industry that the communities around it depend on.
Cape Floral Region, South Africa
8    Ouadi Qadisha and the Forest of the Cedars of God

This Lebanese World Heritage Site is valuable both for historic and natural regions. Ouadi Qadisha, or “The Holy Valley,” was one of the earliest Christian monasteries in the world. There are ruins here that have been around for centuries upon centuries! The cedar forest, which has been famous for so many years that it even merited multiple mentions in the Old Testament scriptures, is rapidly shrinking. This is due to deforestation, but also to parasitic insects that are able to destroy the trees as they become drier and more prone to attack. These places are some of the most valuable ancient sites we have, and it would be a terrible loss if they were to disappear.
Ouadi Qadisha And The Forest Of The Cedars Of God
9    Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An reflects its historic mix of Chinese, Japanese, French and Vietnamese cultures in its amazing architecture. This ancient town has been around for a very long time, and it should be able to exist for another thousand years. However, it won’t get the chance if sea levels continue to rise. If things go as badly as the United Nations projects, then the historic community could be underwater within our lifetime. If you’ve ever seen photos of this beautiful old town, or better yet, actually visited it, then you will understand how unfortunate this will be.
Hoi An, Vietnam
As you can see, climate change threatens many of the places we love most! While we may feel powerless to do anything about it, there are actually ways that each of us can slow down climate change. Carpool, recycle, and bring reusable shopping bags! Next time you’re tempted to do something that isn’t eco-friendly, think of Yellowstone or Venice. The health of this planet depends on all of us!

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