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.

  • No way?!!! Hey luv, get on the phone and organise that First Class Around-the-World Tour by Jet we were talking about…

    …no time to lose everybody – let's go… what, you haven't heard of ego-tourism…?

    On the plus side, some of our already sunken iconic landmarks might benefit… in the longer term anyway. Most existing coral reefs are growing on the skeletons of previous coral reefs from earlier sea-level fluctuations. When we kill this one (short-term) then flood it again (medium term) then whatever life is left in the seas might be able to use the existing skeleton for infrastructure as evolution kick starts again (once all those pesky coastal cities and coal ports and humans are displaced for a while).

    Oh yeah – and cities will make great artificial reefs, once the pollutants dissipate…

    It's life, Jim, but not as we know it…

    Go well, Neil

  • Sorry just do the maths. If all of the ice melted at both of the poles and in glaciers plus all of the snow and divide that with the area of all waterways and oceans you don't get anywhere near that depth of ocean rise. Remember that things are changing all of the time. there were once rain forests at the antartic.

    The centre of Australia was an inland sea once, then covered in forest, now desert. The oceans shrank so much that there was an ocean bridge linking Australia to Asia. Parts of Europe in the fifteenth centuary were hotter than the rest of Europe by five degrees, but has now normalised. There will always be change.

  • This is a great opportunity for Australia to offer up its sparsely populated land mass to save the world's renowned cultural and architectural icons from rising sea levels due to global warming:
    Construction of a channel along the West Australian border to facilitate formation of an inland sea. This would act as a sink to maintain world sea levels at their current levels. As sea levels rise the dimensions of the sink could be increased accordingly. Now that the mining boom is over we have plenty of excavators and diggers lying idle.
    If, at some stage in the future, sea levels begin to fall again, the sink could be drained and used as a global nuclear waste storage facility.

  • Sorry to step on the new "progressive" religion called climate change or global warming or…..but the data behind the "cause" for your climate temperature fluctuations is flawed. Fluctuations in climate are a natural ocurrence. The end of the last ice age when the globe "warmed" took place thousands of years before the start of he industrial revolution..