Climate change threatens cultural heritage: UN
(MENAFN- The Peninsula) UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson (L) and Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed (R) address the media during a press conference where they launched environmental postal stamps for Kenya to raise awareness on climate change at the second United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA -2) being held at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, 26 May 2016. EPA/DANIEL IRUNGU
Paris:The Statue of Liberty, Uganda's gorilla forest, Stonehenge and Venice -- the United Nations on Thursday listed 31 protected sites threatened by sea level rise, drought and other climate change effects.
"Climate change is fast becoming one of the most significant risks for World Heritage sites," said a statement from the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) thinktank and two UN bodies.
Researchers reviewed existing data and reports to measure the climate-specific threat to 31 sites in 29 countries, ranging from coral reefs and tropical forests to deserts and archaeological icons.
And they found that "every site in the report is already experiencing some impacts of climate change," according to lead author Adam Markham of the UCS.
Representatives of 195 nations agreed in Paris last December to limit average global warming to "well below" two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels, and 1.5 C if possible.
This must be achieved through deep cuts in fossil fuel use -- coal, oil and gas which releases planet-warming greenhouse gases into the atmosphere when burnt.
But scientists say that even a 2 C increase will mean a land-gobbling sea level rise, longer and more frequent droughts, dramatically-altered storm and rainfall patterns, and increasingly acute water shortages.
Beyond the 2 C threshold, the projected impacts worsen exponentially.
"As the report's findings underscore, achieving the Paris Agreement's goal... is vitally important to protecting our world heritage for current and future generations, said Mechtild Rossler, director of the UN culture agency's World Heritage Center.
New York's Statue of Liberty is threatened by sea-level rise and superstorms, Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable National Park by hotter temperatures and drought, and England's prehistoric Stonehenge monument by storms and flooding, the report found.
Along with the UCS thinktank, the report was compiled by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Venice will 'succumb'
"The archaeological site of Skara Brae in Scotland and some of the statues on Easter Island are in real danger of being lost to the sea as a result of coastal erosion (worsened by climate, storms and sea level rise) in the near future," Markham told AFP by email.
The Yellowstone National Park may be transformed in just a few decades by more frequent wildfires and ever-less snow due to warmer and shorter winters.
"Venice is likely to eventually succumb to rising water levels," said Markham.
"Coral reefs such as those in New Caledonia and Palau are already being damaged by stronger and more frequent El Ninos."
Most of the sites face multiple threats, from damage caused by tourists to mining, poaching and human encroachment, Markham explained.
"Climate change impacts are a new and additional stress that makes the combination of all the others worse and brings new direct threats."
In many cases, loss or damage to the sites would make a significant dent in tourism income and livelihoods.
UNESCO lists more than 1,000 heritage sites.
Of these, nearly half are threatened by industrial activities such as mining, oil exploration and illegal logging, according to a report released in April by conservation group WWF.
Climate bureaucrats tasked with drawing up a roadmap for executing the Paris agreement close a 10-day session in Bonn on Thursday -- the first official negotiating round since the historic pact was concluded.