Satellites and World Heritage Sites, Partners to Understand Climate Change

This exhibition was designed to highlight the specific climate change challenges facing World Heritage sites. The series of 25 panels use satellite images to show the threats facing these unique places, including shrinking glaciers, coral bleaching, disappearing permafrost, desertification and floods.

Introduction

Space-based sensors have the capacity to measure essential climate change variables. Overall comprehensive monitoring using space technologies is made possible through collaboration among nations around the globe.

World Vegetation and Forests: the World’s Lungs

Climate change and forests are intrinsically linked. Plants and especially forests absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, convert it through photosynthesis into carbon that they store and emit oxygen, making our planet habitable.

Effects of Climate Change in Latin America and the Caribbean

Projections for Latin America and the Caribbean predict significant climate change impacts: rising sea levels, increasing frequency of hurricanes and storms, more pronounced droughts and floods associated with El Niño events and declining water supplies stored in glaciers. Tropical cyclones will increase in terms of frequency and intensity, affecting coastal areas and the small islands states of the Caribbean in particular.

Effects of Climate Change in North America

Although total energy consumption has increased in North America since 1987, notable progress has been made in energy efficiency. The energy sector is still a major CO2 emitter. The United States and Canada account respectively for 23% and 2.2% of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions.

Effects of Climate Change in Europe

The average temperature in Europe has increased by about 1.4°C compared to pre-industrial levels and it is projected to increase by 2.1 to 4.4°C by 2080. Sea levels are rising and glacier melting is accelerating. Sea level is projected to rise 18 to 59 cm by 2100.

Effects of Climate Change in Africa


Africa is one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change with the least adaptive capacity. In Africa, areas potentially subject to desertification cover 43% of the continent’s land area —land on which 270 million people live (40% of the continent’s population).

Effects of Climate Change in Asia

The combustion of fossil fuels and biomass is the most significant source of air pollutants; it is also the major human-produced source of CO2 —one of the main greenhouse gases. Asia is one of the major contributors of such gases.

Effects of Climate Change in Oceania

Since 1950, temperatures have risen by 0.4 to 0.7 °C, with more heat waves and a 70 mm rise in sea level. Floods, landslides, droughts and storm surges should become more frequent and intense, while snow and frost should become less frequent in this region.

Paris, banks of the Seine: hydrological models estimate water decrease

From the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower, from the Place de la Concorde to the Grand and Petit Palais, the evolution of Paris and its history can be seen from the River Seine. The Cathedral of Notre-Dame and the Sainte Chapelle are architectural masterpieces.

Intensification of ENSO Effects in the Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands are a unique 'living museum and showcase of evolution' . Their ecosystems are high in diversity and endemism and home to unusual animal lifeforms, including the land iguana and the giant tortoise.

Disappearance of Glaciers on Mount Kilimanjaro

At 5,895 m, Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa. Its glaciers have persisted for at least 10,000 years. However, the effects of global climate change, combined with human activities, have resulted in the loss of 80% of the area covered by glaciers on Kilimanjaro during the 20th century.

Loss of Corals, Mangroves and Turtles in the Komodo National Park

The satellite image shows the sea, coral and mangrove beaches of Komodo. This park features some of the world’s most diverse coral reefs and is famous for the last remaining habitat of the world’s largest lizard, the Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis), which exists nowhere else in the world.

Loss of Permafrost in the Golden Mountains of Altai

The Scythians built burial tombs –know as kurgans– in the Altai region (Siberia). These are uniquely situated in a permafrost zone. Permafrost is defined as soil that is below 0°C for two years or more. However, the Altai permafrost is now endangered by climate change.

Understanding and Protecting the Virunga National Park Carbon Sink

The Virunga Volcanoes are situated in the Alberine Rift where Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) meet. The area hosts more endemic vertebrate species than any other region of mainland Africa.

Coral Bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef

Corals have a symbiotic relationship with algae called zooxanthellae, which provide their colouration. Under stress, corals may release the zooxanthellae, thus losing their colour. Global climate change may play a role in the increase of coral bleaching events.

The Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn area: an example of glacier retreat in the European Alps

The Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn area is the most glaciated part of the Alps. It contains the Aletsch glacier, Europe’s largest glacier with an area of 128 km², a length of 23 km and a depth of 900 m. Since the mid-19th century it has retreated by 3.4 km. About 1.4 km of this retreat has occurred over the past 56 years.

Floods Risks to the World Heritage Sites of London

Since the beginning of humankind, people have established their settlements near seas or rivers. Climate change and the eventual consequences of rising sea levels will affect many historic sites.

Threatened Earth Structures in the Chan Chan Archaeological Zone

Chan Chan is one of the most important Pre-Hispanic earthen architecture cities on the American continent. Intense rainfall is damaging the base of the earthen structures.

Loss of Wetlands in Ichkeul National Park

The construction of dams on three of the rivers supplying Lake Ichkeul and its marshes led to long periods of drought between 1993 and 2002, reducing much of the freshwater inflow and resulting in a relative increase of the saltwater inflow. In addition, observation of the Ichkeul Region shows a decrease in rain since the 1930s. Satellite images show that the water surface has reduced as a consequence.

Destruction of the Mangrove Forest in the Sundarbans

With over 10,000 km² of land and water, the mangrove forests of the Sundarbans are the largest in the world. If the sea level was to rise by 45 cm worldwide as a consequence of climate change, 75% of the Sundarbans mangroves could be destroyed and many species would be affected.

Glacial Recession in the Ilulissat Icefjord

Located in Greenland, this glacier plays a central role in the study of glaciology and climate variability: it is an outstanding remnant of the last ice age of the Quaternary Period.

Calakmul: an ancient lesson about the effects of climate change?

Calakmul is the largest area of protected tropical forest in North and Central America. The causes of the Maya collapse are still under research, but were likely a combination of political troubles and severe climate effects including drought.

Effects of Desertification on the Mosques of Timbuktu

Timbuktu was an intellectual and spiritual capital and a centre for the propagation of Islam throughout Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries. Although its monuments are continuously restored, current desertification enhances desert encroachment and sand storms: the site is under threat.

Shrinking Glaciers on Mount Everest

The Sagarmatha National Park is an exceptional area with dramatic mountains, glaciers and deep valleys where Mount Everest (or Sagarmatha in Nepali), the highest peak in the world (8,848 m), is located. The air temperatures in this area have risen by 1°C since 1970, leading to a 30% decrease in snow and ice cover over the last 40 years.

Floods in Venice

The frequency of flooding and damage to the city has increased significantly in recent decades: 8 of the 10 highest tides of the past century have occurred since 1960. According to moderate climate change scenarios, the projected net altitude loss of Venice will reach 54 cm by 2100.

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