The Statue of Liberty is arguably America's most powerful symbol. It stands as a testament to millions upon millions of immigrants who've come to the US in search of a better life. Not to mention, New York City just wouldn't be the same without it.
But according to a new report from UNESCO, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS),
Climate change is fast becoming one of the most significant risks for World Heritage sites worldwide.
This includes the Statue of Liberty.
The report states,
As solid and invulnerable as the Statue of Liberty itself seems, the World Heritage site is actually at considerable risk from some of the impacts of climate change – especially sea-level rise, increased intensity of storms and storm surges. In October 2012, flood waters from Hurricane Sandy inundated 75 percent of Liberty Island and although the statue and its pedestal were not harmed or flooded, extensive damage was caused to facilities and infrastructure. Together with Ellis Island, the cost of damage from the hurricane exceeded $77 million.
World Heritage sites like the Statue of Liberty are not just important cultural symbols, they also play a vital role economically. According to the report, the Statue of Liberty received 3.7 million visitors, employed 2,200 people and pumped $174 million into the economies of New York and New Jersey.
The Statue of Liberty is hardly alone in terms of the threat posed by climate change. Sites like the Galápagos islands, Easter Island and Venice are also extremely vulnerable.
This is yet another example of why it's imperative the world's nations work toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming, as they agreed to do via the Paris Agreement. As Adam Markham, lead author of the report, put it,
Climate change is affecting world heritage sites across the globe. Now, more than ever, we need countries to back up with action the promises they made in Paris. There is no other threat [than climate change] that affects so many world heritage sites, and has so much potential to cause destruction.
Climate change is real, it's happening and it's a consequence of human activities. We caused this, and it's up to all of us to address it.