A recent study done by UNEP has revealed that several World Heritage Sites around the world are facing danger due to changing climatic conditions. The study, named World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate, identified 31 sites spread over 29 countries that are at risk of imminent degradation. It was published jointly by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Union of Concerned Scientists, USA.
As reported by Telegraph, some of the famous places named by the report are the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador; Easter Island, Chile; and the Stonehenge, England. It lists several reasons for their endangerment, like the rising global temperatures causing glaciers to melt, which in turn leads to a rise in sea level and coastal erosion. Droughts and wild fires of increasing severity also add to the woes faced by these environmentally sensitive regions.
According to UNESCO, World Heritage Sites are decided on the basis of the natural or cultural significance of certain places and the resulting need to preserve them. Some of them, like the Galapagos Islands, are extremely fragile ecosystems, home to rare species of flora and fauna. Others, like Stonehenge in England, represent marvellous and baffling pieces of human history. In short, they are not places that the world can afford to lose.
The report warns further of the loss of income from tourism, which will affect the concerned countries' economies. In a statement released to the press by UNEP, Elisa Tonda, UNEP's head of the Responsible Industry and Value Chains Unit stated that all the affected parties, i.e, governments of the world, as well as the private sector, need to act immediately in order to curb damaging carbon emissions. It was also suggested that it is important to make tourists aware of the importance of the World Heritage sites and to help in protecting them.