Venice, an Italian city considered to be the world’s cultural heritage, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa may soon become inaccessible. A study has found that most of the 49 UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Mediterranean are expected to be heavily damaged due to floods and coastal erosion by the end of the 21st Century. Calls are growing for countermeasures to protect the historic sites that embody the essence of civilization and serve as popular tourist destinations.
Forty-seven of 49 World Heritage sites in the Mediterranean are expected to be severely damaged by floods and erosion by the turn of the next century, according to a joint study published in “Nature Communications” Monday by the University of Sussex in England and Lena Reimann, a researcher at the Department of Geography of Kiel University in Germany.
Among the sites, Venice is expected to be hit the hardest. Without any measures in place to counter the climate change, the city is likely to experience heavy floods more frequently, with 97 percent of the entire area subject to damage and the city itself submerged by up to 2.5 meters. Coastal erosion will also worsen the damage. “As erosion has already started, we need countermeasures,” said Reimann.
Another heritage site most at risk is Aquileia, an ancient Roman city expected to see the sea level rise by over 2.2 meters, along with Croatia’s Dubrovnik, according to the study. They are all located on the Adriatic Sea that separates the Italian Peninsula from the Balkan Peninsula. Gibraltar of Spain, Greek island Delos, Italy’s Ferrara and Naples, and Israel’s Tel Aviv were also pointed out as the possible subject of flood damage. “Big cities like Venice, Dubrovnik, and Tel Aviv are expected to suffer greater damage,” said Reimann.
The study has attributed the expected damage to rising sea levels due to climate change. In 2000, the World Heritage sites were 1.1 kilometers away from the coastline on average, but the distance is expected to be shortened to 0.1 kilometers by 2100. Also, with extreme weather conditions including torrential rains occurring in increased frequency and intensity by at least 1.3 times to 3 times, sites are likely to be severely damaged from waves and floods.
The problem is that countermeasures are not put in place. “Measures to protect cultural heritages from climate change haven’t been discussed yet,” said Hong Jong-ho, a professor at Seoul National University Graduate School of Environmental Studies. “The latest study should serve as an opportunity for us to realize the issue’s seriousness.” “Even if we comply with the Paris Agreement which limits the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees, we can’t stop the damage from being done to some of the world’s heritages,” Reimann said. “We should make active efforts to come up with measures to secure financial resources to preserve heritages.”