We’re Covering Heritage Sites Threatened by Climate Change. The List Just Got Longer.

Kendra Pierre-Louis

By Kendra Pierre-Louis Oct. 16, 2018 New York Times

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Cedars grow sparsely in the mountains near Jaj, Lebanon.CreditJosh Haner/The New York Times
Children swim by moai statues off the coast of Easter Island.CreditJosh Haner/The New York Times

One of the cruelties of global warming is that it threatens humanity’s past as well as its future.

That was brought into sharp focus by a study issued Tuesday. It says that some of the most important ancient sites in the Mediterranean region — the Greek city of Ephesus, Istanbul’s historic districts, Venice’s canals — might not survive the era of climate change.

Those places joined a list of others that we’ve covered extensively here at The Times. Our series on cultural heritage has looked at theCedars of Lebanon, the Stone Age villages of Scotland and the statues of Easter Island, all of which are threatened by climate change.

Easter Island Is Eroding

Rising ocean levels are causing waves to break on the statues and platforms built a thousand years ago. The island risks losing its cultural heritage. Again.

In the case of Scotland and Easter Island, the menace is from rising seas. Many civilizations of the past, much like many present-day cities, were centered on coastal areas. As sea levels rise — both because warmer water takes up more space than cooler water, and because of melting glaciers — these heritage sites face sharply increased risks from both coastal erosion and flooding.

The new study, published in the journal Nature Communications, analyzed 49 Unesco heritage sites in the Mediterranean region in terms of end-of-century sea level rise projections that assume we don’t mitigate climate change.

Saving Scotland’s Heritage From the Rising Seas

Citizens and scientists on the Orkney Islands are racing to protect thousands of ancient structures threatened by climate change.

In Lebanon, the danger is shrinking habitat. The conditions the cedar trees need to live are becoming more and more rare as the Middle East heats up.

Climate Change Is Killing the Cedars of Lebanon

Global warming could wipe out most of the country’s remaining cedar forests by the end of the century.

The researchers concluded that of the 49 sites, 46 will be threatened by coastal erosion and 40 by flooding if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.

If you haven’t seen our heritage series, or if you missed an article, this might be the occasion for a virtual journey to Lebanon, the Orkney Islands, or Easter Island. The images are stunning and the stories are gripping.

For more news on climate and the environment, follow @NYTClimate on Twitter

Kendra Pierre-Louis is a reporter on the climate team. Before joining The Times in 2017, she covered science and the environment for Popular Science. @kendrawrites

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