Sarah Lichtner
Climate Change will Change How You Vacation
Sarah LichtnerMarch 18, 2014

With yet another snow storm, this winter has sparked thoughts of wish-list vacation destinations. Beignets and bayous in New Orleans? Hiking in Arizona? A beer tour in Belgium? The more I’ve thought about these destinations, the more I’ve realized that climate change will impact these and many other vacation spots due to rising sea levels, more frequent and more severe storms, and increasing temperatures. Here’s how it may affect some locations on your list:

Many historical sites could find themselves under water. More than 20 percent of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) 700 World Heritage Sites will be flooded by rising sea levels over the next 2,000 years without plans to combat climate change, according to a recent study by Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the University of Innsbruck. Heritage sites at risk include the Statue of Liberty, Venice, the Sydney Opera House, the Tower of London, Independence Hall, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. You can see what some of these sites will look like in the future in an article by The Weather Channel that used DrownYourTown (a guide to simulating sea level rise with Google Earth) to show sea level rises.

Beaches are disappearing inch by inch. It shouldn’t be a huge surprise that climate change is shrinking coastlines, but how much is it going to impact your beach destinations? For every foot in sea level rise, 50 to 100 feet of beaches will disappear, or 4 to 8 feet of beach for every inch. Caribbean beaches may be the beaches most impacted by climate change. According to a study by the World Bank, Santo Domingo is one of the top five cities that will be hardest hit by climate change by 2050, particularly by salt-water erosion and coastal flooding. But even beaches along our own coastline could disappear at alarming rates. Atlantic City, for example, is expected to lose 6 inches to upwards of a foot of beach every year based on the current rate of relative sea rise.

Prefer a vacation on the slopes? Climate change is hurting ski resorts. As I mentioned in a previous post about Glacier National Park (which will likely be glacier-free in the next decade), historically snow-covered locales are suffering as well. Resorts at lower elevations will eventually vanish due to the financial burdens of producing man-made snow in warmer temperatures. By 2039, only half of ski resorts in the Northeast will be able to maintain a 100-day season. By the end of the century, Aspen’s snowpack will be limited to the top quarter of the mountain.

With the changes global warming will bring in the coming years, it seems that we must cherish these vacation spots even more. We must do all we can to protect them to preserve vacation memories of the past and ensure that future generations have the opportunity to experience these vacation spots on their own.