How All The World's Natural And Man-Made Wonders Are Being Affected By Climate Change

Politicians around the world have been at odds for decades over the issue of climate change. While the vast majority of scientists strongly believe that we need to change our habits to prevent widespread disasters, many people are in complete denial that it's actually happening.

What better way to show the reality of climate change than through the damage done to some of our greatest treasures from around the world? Both natural and man-made symbols of our world are now under attack from the different climate change effects occurring world-wide.

The fate of Earth's natural wonders is now in question; for some of these incredible places, we may still be able to reverse what has happened. For others, the future doesn't look so bright.

  • The Everglades Are Facing Problems From All Sides - Literally
    Photo: Yinan Chen / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The problem of rising tides is affecting many low-lying regions around the world. Since the Everglades National Park sits on the tip of the Florida Peninsula, surrounded by ocean on three sides, it is extremely susceptible to these rising sea levels. 

    The change in sea level won't just potentially submerge parts of the park's land. The Everglades have a balance of fresh water in the inland areas and saline (salt) water in the outer regions that border the ocean. Because of the rising tides (coupled with human encroachment), the saline areas have expanded and thrown of the balance of plant and animal species. 

  • The Great Wall Of China Is Crumbling
    Photo: w4nd3rl0st (InspiredinDesMoines) / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    At the moment, the Great Wall of China is suffering the combined effects of climate change and human activity. While mining activities have collapsed one 2,300-foot span, another section has been eroded by severe weather.

    The section of the wall, built during the Han Dynasty (221 BC - 207 BC), was constructed using packed-earth bricks, and it is now crumbling. Intense sand storms have also cracked what little remains of that portion of the wall.

    Much of the destruction of the wall not attributed to humans is widely believed to be the result of climate change, and scientists are trying to come up with solutions to preserve the massive World Heritage Site. So far, ideas include programs to plant trees to prevent powerful sandstorms, and also burying the portions of the wall that are most at risk in order to save them.

  • The Great Barrier Reef Is Struggling To Survive
    Photo: Acropora / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    The Great Barrier Reef is one of the more well-known examples of how climate change can affect the natural wonders of our planet, and for good reason. According to the Australian government, there are 3 main negative effects of climate change currently affecting the reef: rising sea temperatures, ocean acidification, and extreme weather events. 

    Rising temperatures cause the most notable effect- coral bleaching. Along with entire portions of the reef being killed in bleaching events, the corals also have a difficult time growing when the ocean's acidity level goes up; slower growth means slower recovery from damage. 

    When it comes to damage, there is much more of it being done with increasingly powerful weather events like cyclones. With the combination of all three factors, the coral reefs are having a very difficult time surviving and maintaining a healthy rat eof growth. And while that spells bad news for the coral, it also has a devastating effect on the populations of other marine life that make the Great Barrier Reef so beautiful and diverse.

  • The Ancient City Of Angkor Wat Could No Longer Stand Up To Torrential Rain
    Photo: Manfred Werner / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    The city of Angkor was once the largest city in the "pre-industrial" world, with over one million inhabitants. Today, the massive temple complex of the Cambodian jungle outside Siem Reap is the darling of Hollywood, featured in movies like Tomb Raider. It attracts millions of visitors every year, but the buildings have been slowly falling apart for years.

    Through an impressively complex system of canals and irrigation channels, the city was built around water. However, at one point in th 1400s, it was hit by a drought, followed by heavy monsoon rains and massive floods.

    It represents a climate change lesson: once the weather changed and they were hit with floods, the system they had been using for hundreds of years failed and the city essentially collapsed. They failed to adapt to the forces of their changing climate, and the ancient city lays in ruins today because of it.

  • Monarch Butterfly Reserves In Mexico Are Under Threat From Changes In Temperature

    Monarch Butterfly Reserves In Mexico Are Under Threat From Changes In Temperature
    Photo: Hagerty Ryan / Pixnio / Public Domain

    Monarch butterflies have a deeply ingrained homing instinct, and they migrate on the same routes from Canada to Mexico and back every year. They winter in Mexico, in mountain ranges that have the correct microclimate to support their hibernation

    The butterflies need very specific temperatures, hovering right above freezing, for their hibernation. They also rely on temperature to know when to start moving again - there is a biological trigger set off when the temperature raises to a specific point, which tells them it's time to begin the trip all the way back to Canada. With rising temperatures and changes in climate in the Mexican wintering areas, the butterflies' entire migration and hibernation cycle could be severely thrown off.

  • Aggressive Wildfires Are Becoming More Common In The Western United States

    Aggressive Wildfires Are Becoming More Common In The Western United States
    Photo: John McColgan / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Californians went through a really tough fire season in 2017 - and it looks like that might be the new normal. The western United States is becoming drier, with an increase in the length and severity of dry seasons and droughts. When wildfires do strike, they are now burning longer and over larger areas than in the past. 

    The change in climate means higher temperatures, and lower humidity in the air. Whether the fires are started by a natural event (like lightning), human error, or human intention, they are becoming a very serious threat to those who live on the West Coast.