Global Warming Said Threat to World Heritage
NAIROBI Global warming is threatening archaeological sites from Peru to Egypt as well as natural wonders such as the Caribbean's largest coral reef, a U.N. report said on Tuesday.
Heritage sites linked to thousands of years of civilisation "may by virtue of climate change very well not be available to future generations," said Achim Steiner, head of the U.N. Environment Programme.
Rising sea levels, more frequent storms, erosion and flooding are accelerating damage to heritage sites around the world, according to an Atlas of Climate Change issued on Tuesday during a Nov. 6-17 U.N. global warming conference.
UNEP said fear of cultural losses, such as a Viking camp in Scotland at risk from erosion or rising seas threatening Alexandria in Egypt, was an extra reason for action to rein in a warming widely blamed on human use of fossil fuels.
"These are losses that affect us all," said Thomas Downing, co-author of the study that gave examples such as floods in the Czech Republic in 2002 that damaged concert halls and theatres or rising seas that might drown low-lying Pacific islands.
Floods in north-east Thailand had damaged the ruins of Ayutthaya, which served as the capital from the 14th to the 18th centuries. In Peru, a pre-Inca site at Chavin de Huantar in the Andes was threatened by melting glaciers.
And it said that the coral of the Belize barrier reef, part of the Caribbean's biggest, was suffering because of higher sea temperatures. Darwin, the British father of the theory of evolution, described the reef in 1842 as "the most remarkable reef in the West Indies."
"Climate changes are impacting on all aspects of the human and natural systems," Koichiro Matsuura, director general of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, said in a statement.
Steiner said that some African countries were considering re-siting wildlife parks and setting up corridors to try to help animals migrate to new regions if current habitats became unsuitable.
"The answer to climate change cannot be to lock things up in museums or in zoos," Steiner said.
"The protection of sites is going to be expensive," Downing said, adding that a comprehensive plan to slow warming would be the best solution.
Delegates at the 189-nation conference are seeking ways to curb a warming widely blamed on a build-up of heat-trapping gases from power plants, factories and cars.