'Ghost of climate future': Alarming warning for Aussie landmarks

·News and Video Producer
·3-min read

Time travel is at the centre of a new series of interactive images that reveal how renowned tourist attractions will look without decisive action to tackle the climate crisis.

The Sydney Opera House, Perth’s Elizabeth Quay and Melbourne’s Australian Open tennis stadiums feature alongside London’s iconic St Paul’s Cathedral and Brazil’s famous beaches.

By switching between global heating of 1.5 degrees verses 3 degrees, users can visualise how rising sea levels will inundate the sites.

Melbourne's tennis centre by the Yarra River at a 3 degrees temperature rise verses 1.5 degrees. Source: Climate Central
Melbourne's tennis centre by the Yarra River at a 3 degrees temperature rise verses 1.5 degrees. Source: Climate Central

The project was developed by US-based researchers Climate Central whose CEO Dr Benjamin Strauss told Yahoo News that he sees the images as a warning like “the ghost of climate future”.

“Just like the (Charles) Dickens story, what we do right now in the present creates that future, even though the future may feel far in the distance,” he said.

While noting the world now has a “stark choice in terms of what we want to bequeath to the future”, Dr Strauss believes it's important to remember there is hope. 

“There’s good news – we face a great burden, but also a great opportunity,” he said.

“We can make an enormous difference for the preservation of all our great coastal cities If we get very serious about cutting climate pollution.”

World must prepare for minimum 3m sea level rise

As the world prepares to meet in Glasgow for the COP26 United Nations climate talks, Dr Strauss warns leaders must agree to rapidly cut emissions.

In order to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees, pollution will need to roughly be cut in half by 2030, and Dr Strauss fears that will be a “tall order”.

Sydney Opera House will face coastal inundation in the future unless measures are put in place to protect the building. Source: Climate Central
Sydney Opera House will face coastal inundation in the future unless measures are put in place to protect the building. Source: Climate Central

“We've warmed the planet by a little more than one degree, so there are essentially two metres of sea level rise in the pipeline even if we stopped all pollution tomorrow,” Dr Strauss said.

“But of course, it's not possible to stop all pollution tomorrow, so really the best case scenario that anyone is talking about, and it’s almost out of reach, is to limit warming to one and a half degrees.

“That translates to around three metres of rise.”

Devil 'designed' problem of climate change

Australia’s Pacific neighbours are likely to be impacted severely by climate change, leaving wealthier nations with a moral obligation to help those displaced.

Australia will have a moral obligation to help its Pacific neighbours as islands become uninhabitable due to climate change. Source: Getty
Australia will have a moral obligation to help its Pacific neighbours as islands become uninhabitable due to climate change. Source: Getty

Smaller nations have had little impact on global carbon levels, and yet they are bearing the brunt of the impact because of emissions from large countries such as Australia.

Despite the danger facing much of the planet as a result of global heating, communicating the problem remains a challenge, according to Dr Strauss.

Our species has developed to deal with immediate threats like other humans, or animals, but not climate change.

“I feel almost the devil designed it as a problem,” Dr Strauss said.

“Generally it seems so abstract and statistical and distant, ands seems to affect people in far away places and times, and its action is through an invisible gas acting on the weather.

"Something like climate change, so far beyond our psychological background.”

More interactive maps showing the effect of climate change around the world can be found here.

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