The Statue of Liberty, Venice, and More Destinations Threatened by Climate Change
President Donald Trump announced Thursday that the United States would leave the Paris Climate Accord: an international treaty aimed to sharply curb the effects of climate change on the planet.
Some of the best-loved destinations around the world — including the Statue of Liberty in New York City and Venice, Italy — have long suffered from the effects of climate change, and are in grave danger in the coming decades if steps are not taken to ensure their protection.
Rising waters and temperatures are just some of the threats to world heritage sites such as these. An increase in wildfires has threatened parts of Yellowstone, and warming waters have all but wiped out the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
The treaty aimed to prevent the earth from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by capping dangerous greenhouse gases, and making a commitment to use renewable energy sources. Every country in the world except Syria and Nicaragua signed the agreement.
Trump’s influence in this case is limited, as the treaty was non-binding from the start, and it would take four years to fully remove the U.S. from the agreement. Mayors and governors from cities and states around the world were also quick to issue statements that they would continue to uphold the terms of the treaty, regardless of the president’s decision.
Because without the mutual support of the world’s nations, these destinations remain at risk, and could render them unavailable to future generations.
Wadi Rum, Jordan
Wadi Rum is a 12,000 year-old protected site that includes caverns, gorges, cliffs, and 45,000 rock carvings and engravings.
In addition to unregulated tourism, drier conditions and drought threaten both the site as well as some of the species that live in the high altitudes of Wadi Rum, according to UNESCO.
Bwindi Forest, Uganda
This national park in Uganda is home to nearly half of the world's remaining gorillas, and is one of only three places in the world where people can still see the apes in their natural habitat. The trekking fees imposed on visitors to the park are also the most lucrative source of tourist revenue in the country.
A warming climate could destroy as much as 75 percent of the gorillas' habitat, while also making them more susceptible to disease, according to the same UNESCO report.
Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The terms of the Paris Agreement have a direct correlation to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, as some scientists report that the bio-diverse reef would be destroyed if waters warmed by 2 degrees Celsius.
Rapidly warming waters have already caused a condition known as "bleaching," in which vast portions of the 1,400-mile-long coral reef died and turned white.
Easter Island, Chile
Sitting nearly 2,200 miles off the coast of Chile, Rapa Nui National Park — known more commonly as Easter Island — is the most remote inhabited island in the world. Its ceremonial moai sculptures dating from 1250 to 1500 A.D. draw tens of thousands of visitors each year.
Rising waters and higher waves threaten to topple several of the centuries-old sculptures.
Statue of Liberty, U.S.
Rising tides and the increasing intensity of storms pose a danger to one of the most prominent symbols of American values.
In 2012, Super-storm Sandy battered the Statue of Liberty in New York City and largely submerged the island on which it sits. Some experts have already begun researching options to potentially move the statue to higher ground if the tides continue to rise, Bloomberg reported.
Antarctica is losing its ice cover rapidly because of global warming, meaning that many of the species that have long called the continent home could die off as their habitat and food resources shrink.
Antarctica has lost 20,800 square miles of ice per year, on average, since the late 1970s, according to NASA.
Yellowstone National Park, U.S.
Scientists have recorded steadily rising temperatures at Yellowstone National Park, and the National Parks Service warned these changes could affect the biological makeup of species in the park while also potentially causing more severe wildfires.
The melting of ice caps in the North Pole has threatened the immediate habitats of species such as penguins and polar bears, while also dangerously changing the conditions for marine life.
The tiny island nation of Kiribati, home to about 130,000 people, risks being entirely underwater because of rising sea levels.
“If the next one is combined with a storm and stronger winds, that’s the end of us,” one local resident told The New York Times after a recent tidal surge. “It’s going to cover this whole island.”
The Galápagos Islands, where Charles Darwin first studied bio-diversity and the evolution of species, is also a place where some of the most rare creatures on the planet are now under threat.
Of some 500 vascular plant species, for example, 180 are found nowhere else on earth, according to UNESCO. Warming waters and a potential increasing intensity of El Nino weather events could fatally alter the delicate habitat that has allowed these species to survive.
Rising waters, combined with deteriorating coastlines, threaten this mysterious site that has long been one of the most cherished Stone Age monuments in the world.
The City of Canals is a tourist mecca, topping lists of the most visited cities in the world every year. Future generations might need scuba gear to visit the Italian metropolis, unfortunately, as rising waters have drastically damaged Venice. Today, it's considered one of the most endangered world heritage sites, according to UNESCO.
Bangkok has long been known as much for its cultural sites as for its blinding pollution, in part because of the high-polluting diesel buses that traverse the city.