The world is full of beautiful places and cultures one must explore if they can. Sadly, you’d have to hurry, as quite a few of them are currently at a real risk of disappearing due to a variety of factors, primarily climate change. Apart from being amazing tourist spots, many of these are also iconic tourist destinations we’ve grown up reading about, including the Great Wall of China, Madagascar, and Venice.
10. The Great Wall Of China
The Great Wall of China is said to be the only thing visible from space, even if that isn’t entirely true. Regardless, it’s an impressive structure running for about 5,500 miles. Instead of a single, continuous wall, it’s actually made up of multiple walls – some of them parallel to each other – originally meant to keep the nomadic invaders from the north out. While the original wall was built some time in the 3rd century BC, subsequent rulers continued to add to it. The Great Wall of China’s most well-preserved part could be traced back to the Ming era (1368-1644).
As of now, the wall is in a bad shape, thanks to wear and tear caused by continuous exposure to wind and rain, along with plants growing in the walls that have accelerated the damage. Over the years, about 30% of the wall has been lost. With the climate getting more extreme and unpredictable over time, the Great Wall of China may not survive for much longer, bringing an end to one of the oldest historical sites in the world.
9. The Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef in Australlia is easily one of the wonders of the natural world, as anyone who has actually seen it would tell you. Spread across an area of over 133,000 square miles off the coast of Queensland, it’s the largest system of coral reefs in the world. Apart from being a diving attraction, coral reefs are immensely important for the marine ecosystem, providing a home to about one-fourth of all marine species.
That’s why if we were to lose all the coral in the world overnight, it’d be catastrophic on multiple fronts. Sadly, that may already be happening.. Over the years, the Great Barrier Reef has lost a huge chunk of its coral population to rising temperatures, something that has only got worse with time. A severe marine heat wave further exacerbated the damage, destroying nearly 50% of its diverse – and rather colorful – coral population.
According to a 2019 report by the United Nations, we may lose about 70% – 90% of all coral reefs on Earth if the temperature rises by just 0.9 degrees Celcius (33.62 degrees Fahrenheit). Experts believe that at that rate, the Great Barrier Reef may completely disappear by 2050.
8. Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy is also known as the Floating City or the City of Bridges, thanks to its unique and vast network of interconnected canals. Except one main road, a few side streets, and small bridges, alleys and walking paths, waterways remain the only way to explore Venice, making it one of the most unique travel experiences one can have.
As of now, though, Venice is going through multiple problems that threaten its long-term survival. The biggest one is global warming, as rising sea levels have already started to submerge parts of it. Floods are also getting more frequent and severe; a 2019 flood managed to put about 70% of the city underwater.
A recent study found that in addition to the drowning, entire parts of the city are sinking at an alarming rate, too. If that wasn’t enough, they also found that many buildings in the city are gradually tilting towards the East.
7. The Amazon Rainforest
Recently, a study reported that the Amazon – easily the largest rainforest in the world – is now releasing more carbon dioxide than it absorbs. It may sound surprising, though looking at the number of forest fires in the region in the past few years, as well as other climate trends throughout the world, scientists knew that it would happen sooner or later. They just didn’t know it would happen so soon.
As of now, fires are still ongoing across the Amazon region, and the current fire season is expected to be even more destructive than the last. While there are many causes for the fires – including reduced precipitation levels in recent years – many activists and local news reports have blamed the beef and farming industries operating in the region for forcibly clearing the forest.
The Patagonia region lies on the southern side of South America, including territory governed by Argentina and Chile. While it may not feature on most mainstream travel lists floating around on the Internet, for the offbeat traveller, the vast region offers a variety of pristine natural landscapes to explore, including the Andes, fjords, lakes, deserts and steppes.
Unfortunately, Patagonia also happens to be one of the frontiers of the fight against climate change, especially in its high-altitude parts in the Andes. Its ice fields – once one of the largest ice caps on the continent – are melting at an alarming rate, and we’re not entirely sure why. Patagonia’s ice cover is generally receding at a faster rate than most places, and at this rate, it may be completely gone within a few decades.
5. Bordeaux, France
You don’t have to be a wine connoisseur to know that the Bordeaux region in France is synonymous with fine wine. For centuries, wineries in Bordeaux have been some of the largest producers of wine in the world, as demand for the beverage has remained consistently high throughout its history. It’s also a major source of tourism for the region, as it attracts wine enthusiasts from around the world.
With changing times, though, all of that may change very soon. As weather patterns start affecting production in major wine-producing regions of the world, Bordeaux is one of the worst affected. Extreme weather conditions like early frost aren’t helping, either. By some estimates, Bordeaux – along with places like Napa Valley in California – will stop being a major wine producer in the next fifty years.
Madagascar is an island located off the south-eastern coast of Africa, and is considered to be one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. Over 11,000 species are endemic to the island – which means they’re only found in Madagascar – and research teams still find entirely new species almost every time they visit. For outdoor and nature enthusiasts, it’s one of the best destinations one could ask for.
In the past few years, however, deforestation and overharvesting has caused a big chunk of the rainforest to disappear, along with its diverse wildlife – for one example, a study found that the lemur population of the island is declining alarmingly fast.
Extensive research on the region remains limited, though from what we know, Madagascar’s rainforest may be at a real risk of disappearing in the next few decades if global warming and deforestation continue at the same rate.
3. Glacier National Park
We’ve long known that the permanent ice caps around the world would be the one of the first places affected by climate change, and we can already see it in action. From the Andes to the Arctic to the Himalayas, glaciers are melting at an unprecedented rate, and we don’t even understand its full effects, yet.
In the United States, Glacier National Park in Montana is perhaps the worst affected. One of USA’s original national parks, it’s still one of the best places you can go to for skiing anywhere in the world, not just the US.
According to a count done back when the park was founded in 1910, it had around 100 massive glaciers. Now, barely a couple of them could even be called glaciers. Between 1966 and 2015, some of the largest glaciers in the park may have lost up to 80% of their area. With temperatures only going upward around the world, that’s expected to accelerate in the coming years.
2. The Maldives
Ever since the first climate reports came out, we’ve known that Maldives would be the first country to be affected by rising sea levels. It’s the lowest-lying country in the world, with over 80% of its islands sitting less than 1 meter above sea level.
As the seas are now rising at a rate of close to four millimeters per year, Maldives is already at a risk of completely disappearing within the next few decades. As per one study done by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changes, they’re expected to rise by half a meter by 2100 even if we sharply reduce carbon emissions. If we don’t, they can rise by up to one meter, effectively drowning the entire country.
Sundarbans is a vast area of mangrove forests situated in India and Bangladesh. A few protected areas inside the region are even classified as UNESCO heritage sites, owing to the sheer diversity of the flora and fauna found there.
In the past few years, though, the mangroves of Sundarbans have seen unprecedented deforestation and damage to the local ecosystem. That’s a problem, as the mangroves keep the violent waters of the Bay of Bengal at… well, bay. Now, rising tides affect larger parts of the region for longer parts of the year, severely affecting the many unique plants and animals that call it home, including the Bengal Tiger. At this rate, the forests – one of the richest biodiversity hotspots in the world – may disappear within a few decades.