"Sydney Opera House and Statue of Liberty 'will be lost to sea level rise.' Nearly one-fith of world cultural heritage sites would be affected by global warming of a further 3C, scientists warn".
The scientists vivedly illustrate their scientific study in an interview with the Guardian. From the tower of Pisa to Venice, from the "Hanseatic League cities" like Hamburg, Lübeck and Bremen to the Sydney Opera house, their examples of endangered heritage sites coincide with many tourist destinations well known to the readers. The Guardian even displays a still from the climate thriller "the day after tomorrow" (statue of liberty) and a surreal photo of a Venice hotel lobby flooded by waters from the Grand Canal, turning the study in what it really is: a science fiction story.
The story is elegantly linked to present concerns, especially of the UK readership:
The threat to cultural sites from the sea is likely to be underestimated, the study admits, as it does not take into account temporary rises in sea levels caused by storm surges such as those that battered the east coast of the UK last December. "Essentially those are uncertainties that we cannot quantify, so we made sure we are on the conservative side of the estimates," Marzeion said.
The ficitional character of this scientific study is literally smoothed out by time, according to the authors (except the caveat that humanity will forget the art of building dikes):
Marzeion said that by looking at sea level rises over such a long timespan – 2000 years – such short-term uncertainties would be smoothed out. His co-author, Anders Levermann, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said: "After 2000 years, the oceans would have reached a new equilibrium state and we can compute the ice loss from Greenland and Antarctica from physical models. At the same time, we consider 2000 years a short enough time to be of relevance for the cultural heritage we cherish."
Like many science fiction stories, this one also has a moral tale - even though the end is not optimistic:
He said the impact on cultural sites brings "an additional dimension" to discussion on climate change, but he does not expect the paper to win over climate change sceptics. "I'm not overly optimistic that culture means more interest in the subject. It's hard to convince people it's a problem if they're not convinced. There appears to be a strong divide between people who feel it is a problem and people who don't."
The logic of this study and its intention can only be explained in cultural terms, too. Independently of the scientific quality (its methodology etc), this study is an original cultural product. Science here is not the opposite of culture, it is culture in the making. To be more exactly, it is producing climate culture; a culture in which everything is seen through the lens of a scientifically modeled climate. Maybe in 2000 years there will be an aquatic UNESCO heritage museum, where this kind of science fiction will be displayed for a post-human species fully adapted to a changing climate.
|Cultural geographers and anthropologists discuss in situ the culture of the UNESCO natural heritage site "Schleswig-Holsteinian Wadden Sea" (photo WK, 2005)|