Beautiful Places Humanity Will Have Destroyed By 2100

I want to be able to tell you that you have all the time in the world to go and explore other countries and cities. I want to say that historic landmarks like the Great Wall of China, which has stood on this Earth for thousands of years, will be here for thousands more. I want to believe that one day I will take my children along the canals of Venice for gelato in St Mark’s Square, or that we will find a way to preserve the mesmerising colours of the Great Barrier Reef before it turns white and can no longer shelter the 1,500 species of fish that inhabit it.

I want to be able to write about all of these things; but, as a journalist, I have a duty to be honest. Here are just some of the beautiful and remarkable places that humanity will have destroyed by the end of this century. 

Majuli Island

Majuli Island in Northeast India once held the record for being the world’s largest river island, however, it has since been stripped of this title. Majuli Island has lost over 60% of its landmass over the last 100 years, as the rushing waters of the Brahmaputra River continue to erode the island’s shores. While land erosion is a natural process, the erosion of Majuli Island is rapidly accelerating due to climate change caused by humanity. So, why is this happening? Is Majuli Island home to an armada of factories and power stations that are causing the swift downfall of the island and all those who have made their homes here? 

Majuli Island - Brahmaputra River
Majuli Island - Brahmaputra River

Actually, it’s a largely untouched natural paradise, filled with verdant forests and lush grasslands. The island is home to tribal and agricultural communities and didn’t see its first mobile phone until 2009. Locals are still in the process of building roads and bridges to traverse the forests and navigate through the greenery. The destruction of Majuli Island is being caused by the rising temperatures of our planet which are melting the ice caps of the Himalayan Mountains. This increases flooding and the river levels, as well as generating more sporadic weather patterns – all of which is a huge danger to Majuli’s sandy shores. The loss of land is catastrophic for those living there.

Land needed for agriculture is being decimated and the unpredictable weather threatens the survival of crops. Majuli Island is also a place of spiritual significance and is the religious hub of Assam. 65 Satras once stood on Majuli Island, but as a result of constant flooding and erosion, only 35 remain despite attempts to move the Satras to safer areas. Homes are having to be rebuilt, elevated by bamboo stilts to protect them from floodwaters, but for some it is too late. More than 9,600 families have lost their homes to the raging Brahmaputra River within the last 45 years, and surveys report that the island will reach a state of desolation in fifteen years.

The Maldives

The Republic of Maldives is a collection of islands that span 510 by 80 miles in the Indian Ocean. There are 1192 islands in the Maldives and almost 200 of them are inhabited, with a population of 450,000 people. Each island is a tropical paradise with white sandy beaches, beautiful coral reefs and tropical forests.

The Maldives is famous for its unique geography; the atolls formed from prehistoric volcanoes which gave way to fringed coral reefs after becoming extinct. However, within the next 20 years, the Maldives could be famous for something else. On average, the islands sit 1.4 meters above sea level, with 80% of the country less than one metre above sea level.

The Maldives could therefore become famous as the first country to become fully submerged by the ocean due to climate change. Sea levels are currently rising by approximately 3 to 4 millimetres each year due to melting ice sheets and glaciers, and this rate will only continue to accelerate. Between 2018 and 2019, the global sea level rose by 6.1 millimetres. This worrying trend threatens the low-lying Maldives as the sea rising by just a few centimetres will result in the destruction of many homes, with 80% of Maldivians living within 100m of the sea.

Venice

The Maldives are not the only islands facing total submersion. A picturesque hub of art and historical architecture, Venice is renowned for being one of the most romantic cities on Earth, offering travellers relaxing gondola tours around the canals. Travellers can explore the Museo Leonardo da Vinci and visit St Mark’s Square, or take a boat to the island of Murano where you can watch the incredible creation of glass artwork and sculptures and even purchase some to take home.

Venice boasts stunning Byzantian Cathedrals and countless beautiful views from its many bridges, but is also under constant threat from floods that cause devastating damage to shop fronts and Venice’s historical architecture. Rising sea levels are a particularly major threat to the city as every year Venice sinks by about 2 millimetres due to subsidence. The city was built on a muddy lagoon, and the foundations continue to compact over time.

In 2019, Venice experienced its worst flooding since 1966. Flooding can occur in Venice when the sea levels rise by 80cm, the level at which St Mark’s Square rests. However, the waters were over a metre higher than this, rising to 187 cm. 2 people sadly lost their lives and Venice’s mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, reported that the damage caused by the high water level would cost approximately €1 billion in repairs. This included the damage sustained by St Mark’s Basilica, an ancient crypt which has only flooded 6 times in the last 1,200 years (four of which have occurred within the last 20 years).  

Venice is flooded every year, but 14 of the 23 high tides that have risen beyond 140cm have happened within the last twenty years. The Mediterranean Sea will likely rise by 140 centimetres over the course of this coming century due to the greenhouse gases which are heating up the Earth’s atmosphere. The two-front attack Venice is facing from both subsidence and the rising sea level means that this unique and culturally significant city will be permanently submerged before the end of this century.

“We will face many losses and changes over the coming years, such as extreme weather and climate displacement, but by acting now we can limit the consequences of polluting our planet and perhaps even save some of the beautiful places that will otherwise be lost to us.”

The Great Barrier Reef

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the Great Barrier Reef is one of the most biodiverse habitats on our entire planet, home to over 1,500 species of fish, 134 species of sharks and rays, six of the world’s seven species of threatened marine turtles, and more than 30 species of marine mammals. It isn’t one coral reef, but over 3,000 separate coral reefs which span 134,634 square miles and is the world’s largest living structure – so big that it can be seen from space. 

A healthy coral reef should display vibrant colours and be pulsing with life. Many aquatic species are able to survive because the reefs offer them shelter and somewhere to find food and evade predators. Coral reefs are a crucial foundation of these ecosystems, but coral is also very delicate.

Small increases in temperature can cause coral bleaching, where the coral expel zooxanthellae, a symbiotic algae which feeds the coral vital nutrients that give it its vibrant colours. Without nutrients, the starving coral turns white and dies. In 2017, 70% of the Great Barrier Reef was reported as either dead or severely bleached. This came after two consecutive years where heatwaves caused mass coral bleaching, and since then the Great Barrier Reef experienced a third mass bleaching event in 2020. This gives us a strong indication of how the coral reefs will transform if the global temperatures continue to rise. 

Since pre-industrial times, humanity has increased the Earth’s temperature by 1°C, and the UN has warned that if this rises to 1.5°C, it will result in the death of 90% of the world’s coral reefs. The Paris Climate Agreement is to ‘limit global warming to well below 2°C, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius’, meaning that even if humanity curbs its carbon emissions we could lose between 90 and 99% of the world’s coral.

Not only would this threaten more than a quarter of all marine fish species who reside in coral reefs, but its destruction would also have a huge impact on Australia’s economy. The Great Barrier Reef brings in $6.4 billion in tourism every year, but unless drastic changes are made and world leaders are able to improve on the promises they made in Paris in 2016, this source of income for many could be gone within the next thirty years.

The Bigger Impact of Climate Change

For many of us, the impacts of the climate crisis seem far away, and something that will be magically fixed before it becomes too big of a problem. In reality, climate change is already affecting our planet and will only continue to get worse. We discuss the tragedies of wildfires and droughts that have brought devastation to countries such as America, Australia and Greece while ignoring the cause. We have watched world leaders applaud and slap each other on the backs for their false promises at the Paris Climate Agreement – to only let temperatures increase by 2C by the year 2050, which scientists have described as the threshold of a catastrophe

The latest condemning report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) only confirms what we already knew. Rising temperatures could have a horrific impact on islands such as the Maldives and Venice, and many others as the sea levels become too high for sustainable living. And, it will not end here. 

Many cities such as Osaka and Shanghai will face dangerous heatwaves and flooding that could cause the mass displacement of people; all of these people will need somewhere to go. It is predicted that between 25 million and 1 billion people will be displaced due to climate change by the year 2050. In comparison, 6.6 million Syrian refugees were forced to flee their homes due to the outbreak of war and violence and more than 70% of these refugees are living in poverty

With not enough space for all the people who will be displaced by climate change, and more land becoming unsuitable for crops due to droughts and flooding, humanity will face food shortages, especially in poorer parts of Africa and Asia where people will be unable to afford expensive food and starvation is already an issue.

Until the people in power treat the climate crisis with the seriousness that it deserves, the situation will only continue to deteriorate.

The Future for Humanity

Humanity has taken over planet Earth, and in many ways, we determine the fate of nature. To help save our environment and by extension, ourselves, we need to find sustainable ways of living and regain balance with the natural world. We have known of the effects of greenhouse gases for decades, yet our carbon emissions have only increased. Since 1970, global CO2 emissions have increased by about 90% and still continue to rise. 

When following the science, it is clear that humanity is the problem, but this also makes us the solution. If we can all make an effort to reduce our impact on the planet we have a chance to reverse the damage we have caused. The IPCC report outlined how ‘if we can cut global emissions in half by 2030 and reach net zero by the middle of this century, we can halt and possibly reverse the rise in temperatures.’ 

We will face many losses and changes over the coming years, such as extreme weather and climate displacement, but by acting now we can limit the consequences of polluting our planet and perhaps even save some of the beautiful places that will otherwise be lost to us.

“The climate crisis is a global issue, and all of us are citizens of planet Earth. We all have a duty to minimise our impact on the environment even if our country will not be the first to suffer the adverse effects of the rising global temperatures and sea levels. In order to help protect our planet and the people who live in the worst affected areas, we need to push for a positive change.”

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