Anyone planning their trip of a lifetime could be forgiven for thinking that no option should be off the table, right?
But fast forward just a few decades and some of today’s most popular destinations could possibly be wiped off the map. Where the following nine tourist drawcards are concerned, sooner rather than later is the right time to visit. Just in case the climate change deniers are wrong 😉
1. DEAD SEA
Few travel dreams are as mesmerising as floating away the hours in the mythical Dead Sea. But enthusiasts better turn their dreams in to reality fast. In recent years the sea has dropped by about four feet a year, but not because of weather changes alone. Rapid increases in human development in the region has resulted in an ever greater demand for water. In return, the world renowned natural phenomenon and major tourist attraction is being sucked dry by the water-desperate countries around it who are helping themselves to the water in the River Jordan, the sea’s main source. Equally thirsty are cosmetic companies, whose relentless extractions of the Dead Sea’s therapeutic mineral-rich waters has had a devastating effect. Having shrunk by a third in size and with sinkholes appearing in spots where the water has receded, scientists fear if the rate of attrition continues, the intensely salted water some claim has medicinal qualities, has maybe 50 years of life left.
2. THE SEYCHELLES
As the ocean has warmed, polar ice has melted, and porous landmasses have subsided, the global mean sea level has risen by 8 inches (20 cm) since 1870. The rate of sea level rise is faster now than at any time in the past 2,000 years, and that rate has doubled in the past two decades. Few places feel the rise more acutely than the Seychelles, an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean. Not only has the stunningly beautiful tropical island chain suffered one of the world’s worst coral-reef extinction, but authorities have also been forced to place granite boulders on previously idyllic beaches to temper rising sea levels. Some argue that the problem is not so much the sea levels rising as the land itself sinking through erosion. Either way, in a country where 80 percent of the population lives on the coast and where the capital itself is on reclaimed land, the possibility of a Seychelles-free world could be less than a century away.
At nearly four miles high, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is the tallest mountain in Africa and one of the continent’s biggest attractions. A study by the British think tank, the Overseas Development Institute, found that Kili is visited by between 35,000 and 40,000 tourists every year. Sadly, the much loved snow-capped show stopper is now under immense threat. Approximately 85% of the glacial ice on Mount Kilimanjaro disappeared between 1912 and 2011, and the remainder could disappear before 2020, according to a 2012 report by Nasa. It’s believed that Kilimanjaro’s glaciers are evaporating rather than melting. If summiting Mount Kilimanjaro was ever on your bucket list, the time is now.
The 1,100 islands of the Maldives are suffering a similar fate to their cousins in the Seychelles. Already, the island paradise is one of the world’s lowest-lying nation, at an average of barely five feet above sea level. A three-foot rise in sea levels, as predicted to occur by 2100, would submerge the island. Although the nation’s president has requested international aid in relocating the country’s 350,000 inhabitants, there has been no let-up in construction of exclusive luxury resorts for those ready to book their dream vacation. If a trip to the Maldives is on the cards, try to tread lightly by opting for certified eco-retreats or ‘green’ accomodation and activities only. This actually goes for visits to any island really – be mindful of the extremely limited resources on offer.
Ever since it was built on land reclaimed from the surrounding marshes 1,200 years ago, Venice has always suffered from flooding, or Acqua Alta as it is referred to by weary locals. However, the problem is now so bad that the World Monuments Fund has placed the distinctive Italian city on its list of destinations under threat. Rising tides and sinking foundations are to blame. The land on which the city’s Renaissance architecture teeters has subsided by nine inches in a century, while the tide level from the Adriatic Sea has risen by three inches. Unless plans to reclaim the salt marshes and build a flood barrier succeed, St. Mark’s Square could be underwater in 70 years!
6. GREAT BARRIER REEF
Close to home, Australia’s best known attraction, the world’s largest barrier reef, is also its biggest victim of climate change and the devastating consequences of unrelenting development, with even more exploitation on the cards. Spanning more than 1,400 miles, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven wonders of the natural world, and up there on most scuba divers’ bucket lists. However, coral cover has already halved since 1985, and the most pessimistic estimates warn that damage from carbon dioxide levels in the ocean and rising sea temperatures will have caused irreversible damage by 2030. Recent studies have also revealed that more than 90 percent of the Great Barrier Reef has experienced bleaching to some degree. In a hundred years, the reef could be an underwater wasteland. An unimaginable scene.
7. THE ALPS
Glaciers aren’t faring any better in the European Alps, the winter sports playground for come 80 million skiers and snowboarders from all over the globe each year. In short, the Alpine ski resorts are losing their snow, with barely half the Alpine glacial ice compared to the 1850s. Even since the 1980s, one fifth of the ice has disappeared, and the worst predictions point to two thirds of ski resorts gone by 2100. In the meantime, attempts to mitigate the growth of barren stretches of rock where powder snow once lay come in the shape of snow canon and snow blankets.
8. TAJ MAHAL
Even monuments are not exempt from environmental damage. India’s top tourist attraction, the Taj Mahal in Agra, with its pristine white ‘miracle marble’ has stunned pilgrims and tourists alike for more than 350 years. However, the distinctive white marble exterior is slowly turning yellow, due to air pollution. Researchers have now identified the pollutants responsible – exactly the same ones that are implicated in global warming and also cause a pall of smog over most of northern India every winter. The there’s the plummeting water levels of the neighbouring Yamuna River. Blighted by pollution, industry and deforestation, the river’s collapse has in turn weakened the foundations of the Taj. Already, tombs in Shah Jahan’s 17th century mausoleum have started to crack and the minarets are tilting. Researchers and campaigners warn that without rapid and effective action, the entire structure is well on its way to ruin.
9. GLACIER NATIONAL PARK
Hikers, campers and outdoors enthusiasts head to Montana’s Glacier National Park for one million acres of lakes, peaks and meadows, much of it visible from the cliff-edge-hugging Going-to-the-Sun Road at 7,000 feet. Not for long, perhaps. The park, which was established in 1910 and nurtures one of the largest ecosystems in North America, has witnessed a drastic change in its landscape. Of the original 150 glaciers recorded in 1850, only 27 remain, and some experts suggest there won’t be any by 2030.
Stand in front of the pyramids at Giza, for example, and you could rightly assume that the world’s most inspirational landmarks will inevitably endure. The sober reality, though, is that travellers have limited time in some cases to see first-hand certain landmarks that are typically taken for granted.
“I am not deeply involved in Australian politics but I know there are prime ministers, governments around the world who are not acting responsibly in relation to climate change.” – Jane Goodall