Famous sites will disappear by 2050


Rapa Nui, Kiribati, Edinburgh and Arnhem Land (clockwise from left) are all likely to be severely affected by climate change. (Getty)

What do the famous Moai stone statues of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and the spectacular ancient sites of Edinburgh have in common?

Devastatingly, is that they could soon both disappear from the face of the earth, battered and bruised by the extreme weather events induced by the climate crisis.

Hoping to slow their demise, a team of global experts gathered in South Australia on Tuesday to think about how to save the world’s history.

The Flinders University Symposium assessed the current state of the world after commitments made by world leaders during the COP26 talks in Glasgow.

The destruction of archaeological sites is nothing new, UNESCO has classified 52 of them as “endangered”, but what is changing is that climate change is now becoming a greater threat than war or development.

The impact of sea level rise was highlighted as a major concern by Flinders University archaeologist Dr Ania Kotarba-Morley when she spoke at the conference.

“Forty percent of the world’s population lives on the coast, and the majority of heritage sites are therefore located on the coasts,” she said. Yahoo News.

“With sea level rise, as predicted by the IPCC report, by 2050, there will not be much left.

“Entire cities will go underwater. The future is bleak, I’m afraid.”

Entire nations on the verge of extinction amid climate crisis

While Western minds tend to favor the cultural significance of brick-and-mortar sites like churches and temples, Kotarba-Morley has found that many Micronesian nations revere landscapes instead.

With some islands set to disappear underwater by 2050, scientists are no longer trying to adapt to the worsening circumstances.

They focus on mitigating the loss of culture, as entire nations are reclaimed by the ocean.

A map showing sites classified as endangered by UNHCR.

Many heritage sites have been classified as endangered due to war and development, but climate change is likely to impact many destinations in the years to come. (UNESCO)

“Nations will have to move but all these sites, intangible, tangible, sacred, everything will have to be relocated,” Kotarba-Morley said.

“The attachment to the landscape, the tombs of their ancestors, their sacred places, their temples, they will all have disappeared.”

Once life in Kiribati becomes untenable, locals will move to Fiji, a land at least two hours by plane across the Pacific.

Climate refugees will have to adapt to a foreign landscape, cultural setting and language group, and then somehow find a way to maintain their ethnic identity.

The future is bleak

While the loss of World Heritage received increased attention during COP26 climate discussions, reaching net zero by 2050 is unlikely to be enough to save iconic sites.

Dr Kotarba-Morley remains “terribly depressed” as she lists places that future generations will probably never see.

  • By 2050, if current heating rates are maintained, up to 80% of the Maldives could disappear.

  • 4,000 km away, in Zanzibar, medieval stone cities will be recaptured by the ocean in the next 80 years.

  • Sumatra’s tropical rainforests will be wiped out by 2030 as global warming continues.

  • The Nan Madol Ceremonial Center in eastern Micronesia could also be destroyed, despite the construction of mangroves and dikes. The list goes on.

Up to 80% of the Maldives could be uninhabitable by 2050. Source: Getty / File

Up to 80% of the Maldives could be uninhabitable by 2050. (Getty)

The world his daughters, aged one and four, will inherit will be radically different from his own carefree youth.

“Will my little girls, when they come of age, really be able to travel like me? she said.

“When I was a young adult, I traveled the world to visit all these amazing heritage sites, these ecological sites, these ancient sites, but by 2050, half of them may be gone.”

Watch: Moby’s advice on how to live during the climate crisis

About Thomas Thorton

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