How climate change puts our cultural heritage at risk

Illustration of Socrates statue surrounded by rising water, as sea level rise threatens cultural sites.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Sea level rise due primarily to global warming threatens to submerge dozens of the most culturally significant sites in the Mediterranean.

  • In Italy alone, at least 13 UNESCO World Heritage Sites are at risk, according to a study published this week in Nature Communications.

Why it matters: UNESCO designates cultural World Heritage Sites for places that represent cultural traditions or civilizations that have since disappeared. The Mediterranean region was home to several ancient civilizations, many of which flourished by the sea.

Inside Netanyahu's decision to snub UNESCO

Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a controversial decision when he canceled his participation in a UNESCO conference on fighting anti-Semitism held Sept. 26 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Western diplomats and UN officials told me they think that Netanyahu canceled in order not to anger the Trump administration. 

Why it matters: UNESCO has been one of the international forums most hostile toward Israel, leading both the U.S. and Israel to announce they would leave the organization by the end of 2018. In the last year, however, UNESCO has not put forth any anti-Israeli resolutions, causing Israeli officials — including Netanyahu — to consider remaining a member. Netanyahu's decision not to show up this week has made it clear that Israel intends to leave.