"Monumental" Climate Change?

The stress that climate change can have on people is beginning to be felt. But a new international study has warned that there may be other victims as well, CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips reports.

From the rising waters of Venice to the ancient temples of Greece to the archeological grandeur of Rome, and to the more modern wonders, global warming may hasten the destruction of some of the world's most treasured buildings and heritage sites.

"The building is that canary in the mine that we can see and appreciate in terms of the change," said study author May Cassar of University College, London.

And the canary is beginning to look decidedly ill. The study concluded that higher temperatures and humidity will speed up the corrosion of the Eiffel Tower's ironwork, for example. And the warm, moist salty air will attack the fine stonework on buildings from the Parthenon to the Tower of London to Westminster Abbey.

"So what we will get within a hundred years is the fine detailing on buildings being lost," Cassar said.

The damage, the report's authors say, may in fact go much deeper and affect the very structure of the buildings.

"It will produce on the masonry and within the building's material fracture and deterioration of the material itself," Sabbioni said.

The point of the new study is that climate change may not only threaten our future, it may also threaten some of the most inspiring and important touchstones of our past. We may have to choose which of these monuments we try to preserve and which we allow to crumble and be lost forever.

"The notion that we can save everything for all time is, I think, one that we have to seriously think about because it's unrealistic — we cannot," Cassar said.

The message: See them now, because within 50 to 100 years, treasures that have lasted for centuries may look very different, or not be there at all.

  • Christine Lagorio

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