Cultural Losses

Perhaps one of the saddest losses to the effects of global warming is the abuse and damage being suffered by the world's most prized monuments and works of priceless art—works often representing the unique cultural story of a people—irreplaceable works of heritage and history. Many of these sites are located in coastal areas, threatened by sea-level rise, flooding, and intense storms, posing threats to monuments, archaeological sites, and other famous structures. Because of climate change, other natural areas are losing the physical character that makes them noteworthy.

In Boston, for example, with continued global warming, sea-level rise and coastal storms could increase the height of flooding on the Charles River. If this were to happen, it would destroy famous historical sites such as Boston Public Garden. In Scotland, archaeologists estimate there are currently 12,000 sites whose existence is threatened by coastal erosion. If global warming causes sea levels to rise in this area, those sites may never be able to be explored and inventoried, essentially causing the loss of important elements of history.

In Venice, Italy, because of the combination of rising sea levels and ground subsidence, the canal system that dissects the city frequently floods many buildings. This is expected to worsen as global warming increases. Today St. Mark's Square floods about 50 more times each year than it did in the early 1900s. At the West Coast National Park in South Africa, many of the archaeological sites are being ruined due to sea-level rise, destroying the future discovery of ancient human history dating back 117,000 years. In the Czech Republic in 2002, flooding destroyed numerous concert halls, museums, libraries, and theaters. Climate change is expected to exacerbate this problem.

The Belize Barrier Reef, once described by Charles Darwin as "the most remarkable reef in the West Indies," is suffering from the effects of global warming. Classified as a World Heritage Site, the reef is being bleached because of rising water temperatures. Reefs worldwide are facing this fate, and as global warming continues, reefs will continue to perish.

According to a report on CBS News in London in June 2007, higher temperatures and humidity will speed up the corrosion of the Eiffel Tower's ironwork. Moist salty air will attack the fine stonework on buildings from the Parthenon to the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey. The end result will be that in a hundred years from now the fine detailing on the buildings will be lost. Because of the effects of rising temperatures, precious treasures that have lasted for centuries may be ruined in just a few decades from now.

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