Add heritage to its list of problems: climate change wrecking the ME's ruins
Thinking about visiting the Middle East’s ancient monuments? Break out your snorkel and flippers! Scores of UNESCO World Heritage Sites will be underwater in 2,000 years’ time according to a study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. It’s hard to get hopped up over that extended timeline – or – is it? Just think of everything we'd never have seen if historical seas rose at that clip!
“Our analysis shows how serious the long-term impacts for our cultural heritage will be if climate change is not mitigated,” said Anders Levermann from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. He co-authored the study with climate scientist Ben Marzeion from the University of Innsbruck. Continue reading below »
Public interest in climate change mostly centers on the ecological and urban impacts; this study puts full focus on devastating effects on cultural heritage. It predicts that 136 out of 720 UNESCO-listed monuments will be affected in the long-term; dramatic ocean encroachment on heritage sites may result in 2014 tourists seeing the pyramids from a glass-bottom boat!
The scientists computed the likely sea-level rise for each degree of global warming and concluded that a one degree Celsius increase in average world temperature will directly threaten over 40 sites over the next two millennium. (Average temperature has already increased by 0.8°C on pre-industrial levels!)
“If large ice masses are melting and the water is dispersed throughout the oceans, this will also influence the Earth’s gravitational field,” said Levermann. “Sea-level rise will therefore vary between regions.” Tides and storm surges, which were not considered in the analysis, would hasten the damage.
War, earthquakes and natural disasters, pollution, and uncontrolled urbanization pose major problems to World Heritage Sites. As climate change converts currently populated land into oceans, future archaeologists will need to dive underwater to explore our cultural legacy. Even sites located at higher elevations and drier locales will be vulnerable as rising seas affect inland aquifers; creating risks of increased flooding and changed soil conditions. Hello sinkholes and mudslides!
So what's this mean for the Arab world? Here's a sampling of Middle Eastern treasures that ought to feature on your bucket list - even if you think climate change is filled with hot air. See them before you need that bucket to bail!