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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.

"Mediterranean society has been centered on the coast and sea for millennia. Much of the cultural heritage is therefore in the hazard zone,"
— Richard Tol, study co-author and professor at the University of Sussex

What they did: For the study, a team of researchers in Europe produced the first-ever risk assessment of cultural UNESCO World Heritage Sites based on flood risk and exposure to erosion.

  • They defined the flood risk as the floodplain of a storm surge with a 100-year return period, and calculated how such flood footprints and frequency would shift depending on different scenarios involving low, medium to high greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The team looked at 49 World Heritage sites located within 10 meters, or 33 feet, above sea level.

What they found: The researchers found that the majority of the 49 World Heritage sites they examined are already at risk from either a 100-year flood level, erosion, or both.

Such risks are only going to increase during the rest of the century, with the sharpest increases occurring if greenhouse gas emissions are not significantly curtailed in the next two decades.

  • Not surprisingly, the World Heritage Site that's at the most risk from sea level rise is Venice and its Lagoon. But costly protective measures are already being put into place there, in the form of a retractable barrier that can protect against high waters of up to 3.6 feet above sea level.
  • World Heritage Sites located in the northern Adriatic Sea are also at high risk of flooding, particularly under a high emissions scenario. This includes the Patriarchal Basilica of Aquileia, in Italy.
  • The country with the most at-risk sites is Italy, with 13, followed by Croatia and Greece.
  • Only 2 sites — Medina of Tunis and Xanthos-Letoon, an archaeological complex in Greece, were found to not be at risk from either flooding or erosion by 2100 under any of the scenarios studied.

The researchers note that adaptation options may be limited, and that expensive solutions — such as the wall being erected around Venice — are not an option for many other sites.

"It is relatively easy to protect a working city, although it may be expensive and the political will may be lacking," Tol told Axios. "Heritage is more difficult as dikes and seawalls may ruin the very thing we seek to preserve."

Go deeper: Catch up with the NYT's project on covering climate change's threat to World Heritage Sites.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
2 hours ago - Technology

Intel CEO sees making own chips as a matter of national security

Pat Gelsinger. Photo: Axios on HBO

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger is putting the pressure on the U.S. government to help subsidize chip manufacturing, insisting the current reliance on plants in Taiwan and Korea as "geopolitically unstable."

Why it matters: There is bipartisan support for funding the domestic semiconductor industry, but Congress has yet to sign the check. The Senate has passed the CHIPS Act that includes $52 billion in semiconductor investment, but it has yet to pass the House.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

17 U.S. and Canadian missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Children are among a group of 17 missionaries kidnapped in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, per a statement from Christian Aid Ministries Sunday.

The latest: "The group of 16 U.S citizens and one Canadian citizen includes five men, seven women, and five children," the Ohio-based group said. Haitian police inspector Frantz Champagne on Sunday identified the 400 Mawozo gang as the group responsible, in a statement to AP.

Ina Fried, author of Login
3 hours ago - Technology

Intel CEO wants to compete against Apple

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger hasn't given up on the idea of the Mac once again using Intel chips, but he acknowledges it will probably be years before he gets that chance.

  • In the meantime, he is focused on powering Windows machines that give Apple CEO Tim Cook a run for his money.

Why it matters: In getting pushed out of the Mac, Intel not only lost a customer but picked up a new rival.