Sustainable Energy

Statue of Liberty threatened by climate change: UNESCO

Anmar Frangoul | Special to
High surf on the Hudson River near the Statue of Liberty October 29, 2012. UNESCO says climate change is putting world heritage sites at risk.
Timothy A. Clary | AFP | Getty Images

Climate change is "fast becoming one of the most significant risks for world heritage sites worldwide" according to a new report from UNESCO, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

The report, 'World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate', highlights some of the world's most famous sites as being impacted by climate change.

"Globally, we need to understand, monitor and address climate change threats to world heritage sites better," Mechtild Rossler, director of UNESCO's world heritage center, said in a statement.

Sites at risk include the Statue of Liberty and Chile's Easter Island.

The report says that while the Statue of Liberty may appear to be "solid and invulnerable" it is actually "at considerable risk from some of the impacts of climate change." These include rising sea levels, storm surges and increased intensity of storms.

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While the statue was unharmed by 2012's Hurricane Sandy, 75 percent of Liberty Island was "inundated" with floodwaters, closing the site for nine months, the report said.

Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui, is located over 3,000 kilometers off Chile's coast and is home to iconic carved statues. The report says that projected impacts include "reduced summer rainfall, sea-level rise, coastal inundation and erosion."

"Climate change is affecting world heritage sites across the globe," Adam Markham, lead author of the report and deputy director of the UCS' Climate and Energy Program, said in a statement. "Some Easter Island statues are at risk of being lost to the sea because of coastal erosion," he added.

Markham went on to give a stark warning, stating that climate change could result in some world heritage sites losing their status.

The report comes in the wake of last year's COP21 summit in Paris, where global leaders agreed to make sure global warming stayed "well below" 2 degrees Celsius and to "pursue efforts" to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

"As the report's findings underscore, achieving the Paris agreement's goal of limiting global temperature rise to a level well below 2 degrees Celsius is vitally important to protecting our world heritage for current and future generations," Rossler said.