According to the latest report, climate change endangers one in four natural World Heritage sites which includes coral reefs, glaciers, and wetlands. According to the report released International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the number of sites that are at higher risk has reached to 62 from 35 in 2014-nearly double the number and that to be in just three years.

IUCN released the report at the United Nations climate talks in Bonn, Germany. The report revealed that corals reefs are worst affected ecosystems due to climate change. The global warming heats up the ocean and results in bleaching of coral reefs. IUCN director general Inger Andersen said that the climate change acts fast and is not sparing the finest treasures of our planet. According to the report, 29% of World Heritage sites faced “significant climate change threats and 7 %-including the Everglades National park in the United States and Lake Turkana in Kenya-had a “critical” outlook.

Anderson said, “The scale and pace at which it (climate change) is damaging our natural heritage underline the need for urgent and ambitious national commitments and actions to implement the Paris Agreement.” Top negotiators are assembled in Bonn to work out a detailed rulebook having basic practical details for executing the planet-rescue pact adopted by nearly 200 countries in Paris in 2015. According to the agreement, each signing country would dedicatedly contribute towards saving our planet by limiting average global warming caused by greenhouse gases from fossil-fuel burning to under two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels, and to 1.5 C if possible. The 1C limit has already been crossed, and scientists expect that if the current pledges of countries to cut emissions are considered the world is surely heading towards a 3C future.

The IUCN advises the UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee on different environmental issues and its impact on nature. The IUCN monitors more than 200 natural Heritage Sites listed by UNESCO. The IUCN report revealed that three World Heritage-listed coral reefs — the Aldabra Atoll in the Indian Ocean, the Belize Barrier Reef in the Atlantic, and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the biggest on Earth — have been affected by “devastating” bleaching events over the last three years.

The IUCN also reported that melting glaciers, resulting from rising temperatures threaten sites like Kilimanjaro National Park, which boasts Africa’s highest peak, and the Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch, home to the largest Alpine glacier. More the natural heritages get damaged more is its impact on local economy and livelihoods, as reported by IUCN. The report provided an example citing the issue. It informed that the melting glaciers in Peru’s Huascaran National park affected water supplies and contaminated the water and soil due to the release of heavy metals previously trapped under ice. This indicated that how crucial it has become to protect these endangered heritage sites.

But the report had good news also. In Asia, no site showed a decline rather some site showed improvement in their overall conservation efforts. The IUCN report brought a good news for India as both the Kaziranga National Park and the Sundarbans National Park were upgraded from the “significant concern” category to the “good with some concerns” group.


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