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Under threat: Statue of Liberty, Yellowstone National Park and Mesa Verde National Park
Statue of Liberty, Yellowstone National Park and Mesa Verde National Park, as well as other World Heritage Sites in dozens of countries are under threat. It was documented by a recent UN report.

The threat: Increasing temperatures, rising sea levels and intensifying weather are.

World Heritage sites are tourist attractions, and tourism is one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing economic sectors, responsible for 9 percent of gross domestic product globally and providing one in 11 jobs.

Terrorism is a major current threat to the tourism industry, but so is climate change.

“The Statue of Liberty is probably the most recognizable statue on the planet and it stands as one of the world’s most potent symbols of freedom…but as solid and invulnerable as…itself seems…the site…is actually at considerable risk from...sea-level rise, increased intensity of storms and storm surges,” stated the report World Heritage and Tourism in Changing Climate, released on Thursday by UNESCO, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“Climate change is a threat multiplier and will increase vulnerability and exacerbate other stresses including but not limited to pollution, conflict over resources, urbanization, habitat fragmentation, loss of tangible cultural heritable and the impact of unplanned or poorly managed tourism,” stated the report.

When Hurricane Sandy hit the New York City in October 2012, it destroyed more than 75 percent of Liberty Island in New York Harbor through flooding, damaging the island’s infrastructure, and forcing it to close for nine months, according to the report. The Liberty Monument is at an extremely low elevation of the island and makes it vulnerable to storms.

“Water levels at Battery Park…reached nearly 4.3 meters…with wave heights [of] 9.91 meters in New York Harbor during the storm…Hurricane Sandy closed Liberty Island for nine months, seriously damaging or destroying much of the infrastructure on the island including electrical, water, sewage, security and telephone systems,” according to the report.

“Repairs to the island after Sandy included replacing an 84-metre dock, …new paving blocks to rebuild the walkways…electrical systems had to be raised as much as 6 meters above sea level.”

The Statue of Liberty, which is valued at more than $1.5 billion, was re-fitted with an energy-efficient, light-emitting diode system above ground and flood levels.

“[T]he intangible cost of future damage…incalculable…the damage was extensive and tourism…had to close for many months…but the lessons learned from its recovery can provide a model for other vulnerable coastal sites,” said the report.

Equally vulnerable is Yellowstone National Park, which covers about 5,592 square miles (9,000 square kilometres) in the Northern Rocky Mountains.

“[The] park forms the core of one of the planet’s last remaining, mostly intact large-scale temperate ecosystems…scientists…have major concerns about the growing signs of climate change in the park…temperatures…have risen by 1.17 degree Celsius…warming is…causing the winter in the park to become shorter, with less snowfall and snow staying on the ground less often…snow totals and the timing of snowmelt effect the rivers and streams of the park,” stated the report.

“Biologist are predicting a 26 percent decrease in native cutthroat trout because of warmer temperatures…40 percent of wetlands…could be lost…frogs…may be under threat…[as well as] swans…cranes...with rising temperatures…fires season has lengthened from five months in the 1970s to seven months today…predicted to increase…by 600 percent or more.”


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