Rising seas could drown Italy’s prized heritage

Several major Unesco World Heritage-listed sites in Italy including the ancient ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum could eventually be swallowed up by rising sea levels, a new study claims.

Rising seas could drown Italy's prized heritage
Venice and its lagoon are under threat from rising sea levels. Photo: GaruUllah/Flickr

Global warming could also deprive Italy of 10 other cultural treasures including Venice and its lagoon, the towns clinging to cliffs that make up the Cinque Terre and the Amalfi coast.

Also at risk are Pisa’s Piazza del Duomo and the historic centre of Naples

That's the conclusion of a new study looking at the potential loss of world heritage worldwide through global warming.

CLICK HERE for the list of heritage sites in Italy most at risk from rising sea levels.

Using sea level rise estimates and topographic data, the researchers looked at the impact of rising sea levels in different countries over the next 2,000 years.

"In this time scale, ocean heat content and glacier ice mass can be considered to be in equilibrium with global temperatures, and relatively independent of the warming path of the initial 100 years," the Germany and Austria-based study authors said.

They found 40 Unesco sites worldwide would be affected by rising oceans over the next 2,000 years if global warming continued at the same rate.

These included a slew of sites in Spain including Seville's Alcazar palace, several in France and Germany and two in Sweden.

But they found that a "not improbable" three-degree Celsius rise in temperature over the same period would have an even more serious impact, affecting 136 Unesco sites worldwide.

The researchers in the study published in the journal IOP science recognized the difficulty of making models of climate change, and also admitted they hadn't taken into account local conditions like flooding.

But they said the consequences of inaction could be disastrous.

"Our analysis illustrates that the spatial distribution of the existing and potential future cultural world heritage makes it vulnerable to sea-level rise," the study authors wrote.

"Future generations will face either loss of these sites, or considerable efforts to protect them," they warned.

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