A new report claims that some of the world's most renowned cultural and architectural icons, including the Statue of Liberty and the Sydney Opera House, will be severely affected by global climate change.

The study, penned by researchers from Austria’s University of Innsbruck and published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, seeks to determine the scope of temperature gains which could severely affect Unesco’s 720 World Heritage Sites by causing sea levels to increase.

According to the study, 136 Unesco World Heritage Sites, or approximately one fifth of the total, will be affected if global temperatures increase by three degrees Celsius over the next two thousand years.

These heritage sites include New York’s Statue of Liberty, the Tower of London, as well as the Sydney Opera House.

Sydney Opera house

Other sites which stand to be affected include London’s Westminster Abbey, the Leaning tower of Pisa and the city centres of Bruges, Naples, Riga, St Petersburg and Venice.

A rise of three degrees Celsius in global temperatures over the next two millennia is not beyond the realm of possibility, and remains well within the range temperature increases outlined by the IPPC, the UN’s climate science panel, last year.

A landmark report released by the panel in September said sea levels are expected to rise 26 to 82 centimetres by 2100, while other studies peg the increase by as much as 1.2 metres by the end of the century, and between two and three metres by 2300.

Professor Ben Marzeion, leader of the team of scientists behind the study from the University of Innsbruck, said the research sought to examine the cultural implications of climate change as opposed to the economic and environmental impacts which are the usual focus of research.

He said the study worked on the assumption that a heritage site would be affected by rises in sea levels once it was partially submerged, although storms and tidal movements also meant that they could be severely impacted even prior to this point.

While the study serves as a long term assessment of the impact of climate change upon humanity, Marzeion said the effects of increasing global temperatures upon some of these heritage sites could be witnessed well within our lifetimes.

“It’s relatively safe to say that we will see the first impacts at these sites in the 21st century,” he said.