From the Statue of Liberty in New York to the Tower of London or the Sydney Opera House – sea-level rise not only affects settlement areas for large parts of the world population but also numerous sites of the UNESCO World Heritage. This is shown in a new study by Ben Marzeion from the University of Innsbruck and Anders Levermann from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
“The physical processes behind the global rise of the oceans are gradual, but they will continue for a very long time,” says climate scientist Ben Marzeion.
“This will also impact the cultural world heritage.” The scientists computed the likely sea-level rise for each degree of global warming and identified regions where UNESCO World Heritage will be put at risk throughout the coming centuries. While public interest so far was focused mainly on ecological and agricultural impacts of climate change, Marzeion and Levermann in the journal Environmental Research Letters now put the focus on the cultural heritage of mankind.
136 out of 700 listed cultural monuments will be affected in the long-term
The UNESCO World Heritage List comprises a total of more than 700 cultural monuments. If global average temperature increases by just one degree Celsius, already more than 40 of these sites will directly be threatened by the water during the next 2000 years. With a temperature increase of three degrees, about one fifth of the cultural world heritage will be affected in the long term.
“136 sites will be below sea-level in the long-run in that case if no protection measures are taken,” Ben Marzeion specifies. “The fact that tides and storm surges could already affect these cultural sites much earlier has not even been taken into account.” Among the world heritage sites affected are, for instance, the historical city centres of Bruges, Naples, Istanbul and St. Petersburg and a number of sites in India and China.
In order to make reliable statements, the climatologists also consider the regionally different rates of sea-level rise. “If large ice masses are melting and the water is dispersed throughout the oceans, this will also influence the Earth's gravitational field,“ says Anders Levermann. “Sea-level rise will therefore vary between regions.” The scientists calculated future sea-level rise for all world regions and compared these projections with today’s coastal settlement areas and the sites of the cultural world heritage. “
Our analysis shows how serious the long-term impacts for our cultural heritage will be if climate change is not mitigated,” says Anders Levermann. “The global average temperature has already increased by 0.8 degrees compared to pre-industrial levels. If our greenhouse-gas emissions increase as they have done in the past, physical models project a global warming of up to five degrees by the end of this century."
Currently populated regions become oceans
Apart from historical cultural monuments, regions that are currently populated by millions of people would thus be affected. With a global warming of three degrees, twelve countries around the world could lose more than half of their present land area and about 30 countries could lose one tenth of their area. “Island states in the Pacific and the Caribbean as well as the Maldives and the Seychelles are particularly threatened, but not only these,” says Anders Levermann.
“A majority of their population will eventually need to leave their home islands in the long-term, so most of their culture could be entirely lost sooner or later if the warming trend is not stopped,” Ben Marzeion adds. Seven percent of the world’s population today live in regions that, without massive protection, will eventually be below sea-level if temperatures rise to three degrees. “If that sea-level rise occurred today, more than 600 million people would be affected and would have to find a new home,” Marzeion emphasizes.
In Southeast Asia, where many people are living at the coasts, sea-level rise will impact especially strong. But parts of the United States will be affected as well, as for instance the state of Florida. “These major long-term changes along our coast lines will most probably change cultural structures fundamentally,” says Marzeion. “If we do not limit climate change, the archaeologists of the future will need to search for major parts of our cultural heritage in the oceans.“
Article: Marzeion, B., Levermann, A. (2014): Loss of cultural world heritage and currently inhabited places to sea-level rise. Environmental Research Letters [doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/9/3/034001]
Weblink to the article once it is published: http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/9/3/034001/article
For further information please contact:
PIK press office
Phone: +49 331 288 25 07
Institut für Meteorologie und Geophysik
Tel.: +43 512 507-5482
Mareike Schodder | PIK News
From volcano's slope, NASA instrument looks sky high and to the future
27.04.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Penn researchers quantify the changes that lightning inspires in rock
27.04.2017 | University of Pennsylvania
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
27.04.2017 | Life Sciences
27.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences