In July New Scientist reported that 35 World Heritage sites are threatened by climate change. That's nearly one in six of the sites listed because of their natural value. They include shrinking glaciers in Argentinia's Los Glaciares National Park and the washing away of birds nests by higher sea levels in Germany's Wadden Sea.
In most cases climate change isn't the only factor. In Los Glaciares alien species, like cows and dogs, and increased visitor numbers create problems. In the Galapagos its much the same whilst in Mexico's Butterfly Biosphere Reserve commercial logging is a factor. Of course, these factors threaten that large majority of sites and habitats that aren't special enough to have World Heritage status but which are still important for the preservation of biodiversity and recreation.
Look behind the headlines and you see the same four causes:
- More people - who need homes and food.
- More prosperity - especially in China - which increases the demand for meat, minerals, travel, etc.
- More development - both to meet local needs and to provide exports to the developed countries.
- Unnecessary use of fossil fuels - driving climate change.