Grist.org

It’s not just Venice. Climate change imperils ancient treasures everywhere.

Saltwater rushed into St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice last week, submerging marble tombs, intricate mosaics, and centuries-old columns. A man was spotted swimming across St. Mark’s Square, normally bustling with tourists, as the highest tide in 50 years swept through.The “Floating City” of bridges, vaporetti, and gondolas is hardly a stranger to high tides. Venetians are accustomed to acqua alta, or “high water,” arriving in the fall. But as the city’s foundation sinks and sea levels rise, the floods are getting worse. The basilica has submerged six times over the last 1,200 years. Tellingly, four of those instances were in the last two decades.The rising saltwater presents a threat to the city’s prized architecture, including wall paintings and frescoes from the Renaissance. Early estimates put the damage around $1 billion so far.

It’s a vivid testament to the risks climate change poses to many of the world’s cultural treasures. In a fitting irony, minutes after Venice’s regional council rejected measures to fund renewable energy and replace diesel buses with cleaner ones, the council’s chamber was swept by floodwaters. Since 2003, the city has been working on an infrastructure project known as Mose (as in Moses) for protection against high tides, but it’s still not up and running, having been bogged down in scandal, cost overruns, and other delays. Venice has plenty of company — some 86 percent of UNESCO World Heritage sites like Venice in coastal regions of the Mediterranean are at risk from flooding and erosion, according to a study last year in the journal Nature.

Keep reading... Show less

How humans kicked off the Pyrocene -- a new 'age of fire'

The Amazon, Alaska, and of course California — more of the world is going up in flames, and with climate change, that progression shows no sign of stopping. Are we reckoning with a new age of fire? Is this the Pyrocene?

Keep reading... Show less

The power’s out in California. Is this what our future looks like?

You’d think a power outage would make things quieter, but not so here in the hills above the San Francisco Bay Area. When the electricity went off it was replaced with wails of rage and the steady thrum of diesel generators. When I rode my bike up into the streets where the lights went off, I saw people seemingly going about their business as usual, with perhaps a little more frustration than usual. And I wondered if I was catching a glimpse of a future in which we constrain energy to restore the climate.

Keep reading... Show less

Parts of California are too wildfire-prone to insure

California is facing yet another real estate-related crisis, but we’re not talking about its sky-high home prices. According to newly released data, it’s simply become too risky to insure houses in big swaths of the wildfire-prone state.

Keep reading... Show less

How sci-fi could help solve climate change

As early as 1905, nearly 50 years before the first photovoltaic cell was put to use, the women of “Ladyland” were thriving on solar energy.

Keep reading... Show less

How watching too much hurricane coverage can damage your mental health: report

When it comes to surviving climate disasters, it’s not necessarily over and done when the weather gets better. Like people who lived through Hurricanes Katrina, Maria, Sandy, and other disasters — those recovering from Hurricane Irma are reporting symptoms of post-traumatic stress. You might think that the biggest predictor of survivors’ mental health issues would be how drastically someone was impacted by a storm, but according to research published this month in JAMA Network Open, a more telling factor was how much media hype a person consumed about the storm.

Keep reading... Show less

Antarctic sea ice is 'astonishingly' low this melt season

Right now, on the shores of Antarctica, there’s open water crashing against the largest ice shelf in the world. The annual ice-free season has begun at the Ross Ice Shelf — a month ahead of schedule.
This post originally appeared on Grist.
The frozen region of freshwater ice the size of France partially protects the West Antarctic Ice Sheet from collapsing into the sea. In recent years, the ice-free season in the Ross Sea has become a routine event — but it happened this year on New Year’s Day, the earliest time in history.

“Antarctic sea ice extent is astonishingly low this year, not just near the Ross Ice Shelf, but around most of the continent,” says Cecilia Bitz, a polar scientist at the University of Washington.

Keep reading... Show less

This Water War Will Decide the Fate of 1-in-8 Americans

Lake Mead is the country’s biggest reservoir of water. Think of it as the savings account for the entire Southwest. Right now, that savings account is nearly overdrawn.

Keep reading... Show less

Who Asks Paul Ryan the Tough Climate Question? The 7-Year-Old

Midway through the House speaker’s weekly briefing on Thursday, a young voice from the audience piped up and asked Ryan, “The earth is warming up. What should we do?”

Keep reading... Show less

This Report About the EPA Falling Apart Is Incredibly Relevant - It Was Written in 1983

Substitute some scandals, and parts of this 35-year-old New York Times report on the EPA sound like they could have been written today. “Once noted for its efficiency and esprit,” it reads, “the agency is now demoralized and virtually inert, according to past and current officials of the agency, Congressmen of both parties and outside critics.”

Keep reading... Show less
BRAND NEW STORIES