Some of the world’s most beloved travel destinations are also among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, according to two WWF experts.
Serving as consultants to Newsweek magazine’s special issue “100 Places to Explore Before They Disappear,” WWF climate change experts Lou Leonard and Nick Sundt cautioned that the need for action is now. “It isn’t just a question of reducing our emissions,” Sundt told Newsweek. “We also need to prepare for the consequences and adapt to them. If we don’t reduce our emissions, we will see impacts to which we cannot adapt.”
While these places may be threatened, they are far from lost. International leaders are ramping up efforts to tackle the drivers of climate change. Just this week, the United States proposed new initiatives to reduce emissions from power plants, and China has shown some of its strongest signs to date that the nation’s leaders intend to follow suit. While these steps will not solve the problem overnight, they can help catalyze other nations to do their part to reduce emissions too. Likewise the international community is also stepping up efforts to reduce the vulnerability of many of these places to climate disruption.
In this list, we highlight 17 places you can see in depth on a nature adventure with WWF and Natural Habitat Adventures.
Why go now: Millions of emperor penguins call the northernmost tip of Antarctica home. But as we were reminded of earlier this month after the release of another study about the instability of the Antarctic ice sheet, Antarctica is one of the most vulnerable spots in the world to climate change.
Why go now: An altered climate means China’s capital city is experiencing an increased number of intense sandstorms which, in turn, contribute to air pollution—already a big problem in China.
Why go now: Droughts and rising temperatures are threatening Chile’s economy, especially for agricultural producers in the middle chunk of the country.
Why go now: Warming oceans—especially from the fluctuations caused by El Nino—put the marine species of the Galapagos Islands and coastal mainland Ecuador at risk.
Why go now: WWF has found that the population of ungulates, or hoofed-animals, that participate in the annual Great Migration has markedly decreased. The subsequent impact on the ecosystem may be substantial.
Why go now: WWF and conservation partners recognized decades ago what a special place the 35,000-acre cloud forest is and set up measures to protect it. Today, the park is threatened by even modest increases in temperature, which impact an ecosystem where so many life forms depend on one another.
Why go now: Winds from the Atlantic Ocean shift the park’s famous sand dunes 65 feet annually. However, if stronger winds from increasing temperatures move the dunes more quickly, subsequent droughts could have a devastating impact on local people and wildlife.
Why go now: The delta’s wetlands rely on a delicate balance between temperatures and rainfall. A changing climate will likely dry out many of the area’s peat bogs, crucial for wildlife and staving off wildfires.
Why go now: More frequent droughts mean that the serpentine rivers so attractive to kayakers and so important to Portugal’s farms are drying up. Forecasters say climate change is intensifying these conditions.
Why go now: Known among wildlife enthusiasts for its populations of mountain gorillas and chimpanzees, experts are concerned about flooding from Africa’s Great Lakes, and changing temperatures may restrict water and food resources for local people.
Why go now: Slight changes to rainfall patterns could have dire consequences for the small-scale agriculture on which many of the country’s impoverished inhabitants depend, de-stabilizing the economy.
By Marsea Nelson, guest blogger for WWF Travel