World Heritage sites threatened by sea level rise

October 16, 2018
Venice, which already sometimes experiences flooding, is one of the cities rimming the Mediterranean deeply threatened by rising sea levels, according to researchers

From Venice and the tower of Pisa to the medieval city of Rhodes, dozens of UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Mediterranean basin are deeply threatened by rising sea levels, researchers warned Tuesday.

All but two of 49 UN-recognised icons of human civilisation rimming the Mediterranean Sea risk being damaged by the rising watermark, soil erosion, or both, with few options for protecting most of them, they reported in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

Venice and its lagoon, the Patriarchal Basilica of Aquileia, and Ferrera, City of the Renaissance, and its Po Delta, all hit the top of a risk scale devised for the study.

"These World Heritage Sites are located along the northern Adriatic Sea, where extreme sea levels are highest as high storm surges coincide with high ," the authors explained.

In 2013, the UN's climate science panel estimated that global oceans could go up by as much as 76 centimetres by century's end.

But recent studies—taking into account shrinking ice sheets, now the top contributor to sea level rise—suggest those earlier projections were far too conservative. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will publish new estimates in September 2019.

Even under the most optimistic scenarios for reducing greenhouse gases, sea levels will continue to rise well into or across the 22nd century.

Shrinking ice sheets are now the top contributor to rising sea levels

The sites most at risk from coastal erosion include Tyre in Lebanon, the Archaeological Ensemble of Tarraco in Spain, and Ephesus in Turkey.

"Heritage sites face many challenges to adapt to the effects of rise, as it changes the value and 'spirit of place' for each site," said co-author Sally Brown, a senior researcher at the University of Southampton.

Only a couple of the sites—including the Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna and the Cathedral of St. James in Sibenik—could be relocated, but doing so would compromise what the UNESCO calls their "outstanding universal value," the study found.

Researchers led by Lena Reimann of Kiel University looked at four climate change scenarios based on how quickly and deeply humanity reduces carbon pollution.

They ranged from one that would see global warming capped at two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels, to a "business-as-usual" trajectory in which greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated, resulting in a temperature increase of 3C to 4C by 2100.

"Sea level rise may become a larger threat to World Heritage Sites than a present-day once-a-century storm surge," the study said.

"Present day 100-year events in the Mediterranean may occur much more frequently, up to several times per year, by 2100."

Explore further: Reaching international climate change goals can halve rising sea levels by the end of the century

More information: Lena Reimann et al. Mediterranean UNESCO World Heritage at risk from coastal flooding and erosion due to sea-level rise, Nature Communications (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-06645-9

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6 comments

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Old_C_Code
1 / 5 (7) Oct 16, 2018
None of the sites are in danger yet. Venice has always flooded. More alarmist BS.
aksdad
1 / 5 (7) Oct 16, 2018
Even under the most optimistic scenarios for reducing greenhouse gases, sea levels will continue to rise well into or across the 22nd century.

Translation: sea level has risen for 19,000 years and will probably continue for a while, even if human-caused global warming turns out to be nothing more than hot air.

https://www.giss....nitz_09/

Consumer tip: don't build on coastal land lying less than a meter above sea level if you want your buildings to last for 500 years or more. If you're like the rest of us and only plan for a useable life of a hundred years or less, go ahead.
SteveS
5 / 5 (7) Oct 17, 2018
Translation: sea level has risen for 19,000 years and will probably continue for a while, even if human-caused global warming turns out to be nothing more than hot air.


"When people say "The climate has changed before," these are the kinds of changes they're talking about."

https://xkcd.com/1732/

It's the rate of change you should worry about.
howhot3
4 / 5 (4) Oct 17, 2018
You have climate change deniers saying that the status quo is fine ... and then there's the truth. As funny as it is the xkcd.com/1732 is, it's right on the money. With all that global warming, it means there is a lot of ice melting more water evaporating, more creeks and rivers flooding, and it's getting faster and as the temperatures rises with more water is lofted into the air, humidity increases to the point where living land life can barely hold on in the stewing vapor. Yeah, I can see why all of the climate deniers want to have global warming. They want to be stew parts.
theredpill
3.4 / 5 (5) Oct 23, 2018
"....and then there's the truth."

You mean like where every tidal gauge on earth that is not subject to subsidence shows the same ROR as they have since measurements began? That kind of truth...or do you mean what you believe is the truth...."In 2013, the UN's climate science panel estimated that global oceans could go up by as much as 76 centimetres by century's end."

Almost a centimeter per year, while the gauges still measure 1.7mm per year.

" More alarmist BS. "

Yup, can't push carbon taxation without some horrific potential outcome of NOT doing it. Please folks, research CO2 and how it actually "works" before you believe .00042% of the atmosphere controls the temperature of the whole thing.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (2) Oct 23, 2018
Consider all the world heritage-class sites that have already been inundated since the lows of the last ice age. Including those on the plain beneath the Persian gulf.

So much left to explore.

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