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
Hidden river once flowed beneath Antarctic ice
22.08.2017 | Rice University
Greenland ice flow likely to speed up: New data assert glaciers move over sediment, which gets more slippery as it gets wetter
17.08.2017 | Swansea University
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
23.08.2017 | Life Sciences
23.08.2017 | Life Sciences
23.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy