Some of the world's most recognisable and important landmarks could be lost to rising sea-levels if current global warming trends are maintained over the next two millennia.
This is according to a new study, published today, 5 March, in IOP Publishing's journal Environmental Research Letters, that has calculated the temperature increases at which the 720 sites currently on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites would be impacted by subsequent sea-level rises.
The Statue of Liberty, Independence Hall, Tower of London and Sydney Opera House are among the 136 sites that would be impacted if the current global warming trend continues and temperatures rise to 3°C above pre-industrial levels in the next 2000 years—a likely and not particularly extreme scenario, according to the researchers.
Also impacted would be the city centres of Brugge, Naples, Riga and St. Petersburg; Venice and its Lagoon; Robben Island; and Westminster Abbey.
Lead author of the study Professor Ben Marzeion, from the University of Innsbruck, said: "Sea-levels are responding to global warming slowly but steadily because the key processes involved—ocean heat uptake and melting continental ice—go on for a long while after the warming of the atmosphere has stopped.
Co-author of the study Professor Anders Levermann, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said: "After 2000 years, the oceans would have reached a new equilibrium state and we can compute the ice loss from Greenland and Antarctica from physical models. At the same time, we consider 2000 years a short enough time to be of relevance for the cultural heritage we cherish."
As a proxy of where cultural heritage may be currently developing or set to develop in the future, the researchers also calculated the percentage of currently populated places that would be living below sea-level if temperatures increased above pre-industrial levels by 3°C in the next 2000 years.
They found that seven per cent of the current global population would be living on land that would be below sea level and that the distribution of the affected population was uneven—more than 60 per cent of the affected population would be in China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Indonesia.
Additionally, the researchers also calculated the percentage of global land that would be below sea-level under the same scenario. They found that seven countries—including the Maldives, Bahamas and Cayman Islands—would lose 50 per cent of their land and a further 35 countries would lose ten per cent of their land.
Professor Marzeion concludes: "Our results show that if there is a 3°C temperature increase over the next 2000 years, which seems likely to be reached and is generally considered not to be an extreme scenario, the impacts on global heritage would be severe.
"We've assumed that a heritage site is impacted when at least part of it is below local mean sea-level; however, tides and storm surges may dictate whether or not the site should be protected before sea-levels reach this point."
From Wednesday 5 March this paper can be downloaded from http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/9/3/034001/article
Notes to Editors
1. For further information, a full draft of the journal paper or contact with one of the researchers, contact IOP Press Officer, Michael Bishop: Tel: 0117 930 1032 E-mail: email@example.com For more information on how to use the embargoed material above, please refer to our embargo policy.
IOP Publishing Journalist Area
2. The IOP Publishing Journalist Area gives journalists access to embargoed press releases, advanced copies of papers, supplementary images and videos. In addition to this, a weekly news digest is uploaded into the Journalist Area every Friday, highlighting a selection of newsworthy papers set to be published in the following week. Login details also give free access to IOPscience, IOP Publishing's journal platform. To apply for a free subscription to this service, please email Michael Bishop, IOP Press Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org, with your name, organisation, address and a preferred username.
Loss of cultural world heritage and currently inhabited places to sea-level rise
3. The published version of the paper 'Loss of cultural heritage and currently inhabited places to sea-level rise' (Ben Marzeion and Anders Levermann Environ. Res. Lett. 9 034001) will be freely available online from Wednesday 5 March. It will be available at http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/9/3/034001/article.
Environmental Research Letters
4. Environmental Research Letters is an open access journal that covers all of environmental science, providing a coherent and integrated approach including research articles, perspectives and editorials.
5. IOP Publishing provides a range of journals, magazines, websites and services that enable researchers and research organisations to reach the widest possible audience for their research. We combine the culture of a learned society with global reach and highly efficient and effective publishing systems and processes. With offices in the UK, US, Germany, China and Japan, and staff in many other locations including Mexico and Russia, we serve researchers in the physical and related sciences in all parts of the world. IOP Publishing is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Institute of Physics. The Institute is a leading scientific society promoting physics and bringing physicists together for the benefit of all. Any profits generated by IOP Publishing are used by the Institute to support science and scientists in both the developed and developing world. Go to ioppublishing.org.
Access to Research
6. Access to Research is an initiative through which the UK public can gain free, walk-in access to a wide range of academic articles and research at their local library. This article is freely available through this initiative. For more information, go to http://www.accesstoresearch.org.uk
The Institute of Physics
6. The Institute of Physics is a leading scientific society. We are a charitable organisation with a worldwide membership of more than 50,000, working together to advance physics education, research and application. We engage with policymakers and the general public to develop awareness and understanding of the value of physics and, through IOP Publishing, we are world leaders in professional scientific communications. Go to http://www.iop.org.
AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert! system.