10 Places to Appreciate Before They Vanish

European Alps
The highest peak of the European Alps, Mont Blanc, sits at an altitude of approximately 15,781 feet. .

Tobias Spitaler / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

The effects of global warming and climate change are widespread and severe, and they may cause the Earth's landscape to look very different in years to come.

The sea level has been steadily rising for decades, and the problem is getting worse. By the year 2100, oceans are predicted to rise 12 inches or more. This will threaten coasts and islands as erosion intensifies and tropical storms increase in number. Desertification is also a cause for concern in arid climates, and glacial melt has put a strain on continents and ecosystems around the world. The planet is in trouble unless change happens on a global scale. Take in as much beauty as possible now and do everything you can to support conservation efforts.

Here is our list of 10 places to appreciate before they cease to exist.

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Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef in Australia

ProDesign Studio / Shutterstock

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven wonders of the natural world, and it's no secret why. With an area of over 216,000 square miles, 2,500 distinct reefs, and thousands of common and endangered aquatic species, this site in Queensland, Australia, is truly magnificent, but it's in trouble.

Rising ocean temperatures, water pollution, ocean acidification, and cyclones continually pummel the Great Barrier Reef and have caused mass coral bleaching. The governments of Australia and Queensland are working to try to protect the Great Barrier Reef from disappearing by donating $200 million each year and funding the work of reef restoration agencies such as the Reef Trust.

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Glacier National Park

Streams and mountains in Glacier National Park in Montana

Trey Ratcliff / Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

In the mid-1800s, there were an estimated 80 glaciers in Glacier National Park in the Rocky Mountains of Montana. Now, only 26 remain, and these glaciers are expected to disappear by 2100 or earlier. The warming climate has reduced the size of these glaciers by greater than 80% since 1966, according to data released by the U.S. Geological Survey. Glacial melt puts stress on terrestrial and aquatic species and causes water levels to rise. You can visit Glacier National Park to see what glaciers are left, but you will likely have to hike to view most of them.

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Venice, Italy

Buildings underwater in Venice, Italy

PlusONE / Shutterstock

Acqua alta means "high water" in Italian, and the phrase is what Venetians use to describe high tides that flood the city. In the last century, the frequency and intensity of acqua alta have been increasing. On November 4 of 1966, Venice experienced the worst flooding on record with the city covered in 76.4 inches of water. On November 12 of 2019, floods left submerged Venice in 74.4 inches of water. Between 2000 and 2020, more than half of the city flooded a total of twelve times, compared to just once between 1872 and 1950. As ocean levels rise and Venice sinks due to plate tectonics, acqua alta becomes a greater threat to this idyllic Italian city.

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Sahara Desert

The Sahara Desert in Africa

John Spooner / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

With an area of over 3.5 million square miles, the Sahara Desert in Africa is the largest non-polar desert in the world—and it's growing. In fact, it has expanded by an estimated 10% since the early 1900s. Most of this growth can be seen in the Atlas Mountains to the north and in the Sahel region to the south. Climate change is thought to be one of the primary causes because it dries the land and erodes the soil, but human encroachment has also drastically depleted resources. If this rapid desertification continues, the desert could alter the North African environment.

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Republic of Maldives

Maldives in the Indian Ocean

Shahee Ilyas / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA

The Republic of Maldives in the Indian Ocean is the lowest-lying country in the world, with a maximum natural ground level of 9.8 feet above sea level and an average ground level of between 3.3 and 4.9 feet above sea level. This country is under threat of "sinking" due to rising sea levels; experts expect the sea level to rise by at least 1.6 feet by 2100. If this happens, this nation of 1,190 islands may be swallowed by the sea and lose as much as 77% of its land area. No one knows for sure what the future holds for Maldives, but some artificial islands are already being constructed.

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Patagonian Icefields

Glaciers in Patagonian Icefields in South America

Luca Galuzzi / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.5

A land of untouched beauty, the icefields of Patagonia, Argentina, are changing dramatically. Both the South and North Patagonia icefields are steadily retreating due to rising temperatures and declining precipitation. San Rafael glacier in the north is melting into the sea and lagoons of Patagonia at one of the fastest rates in the world, and between 1984 and 2014, the Jorge Montt glacier in the south retreated nearly 7.5 miles. The South Patagonian Ice Field, which forms many of the glaciers found in Los Glaciares National Park, is particularly concerning to scientists. These icefields may be unrecognizable in years to come.

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House under water in Bangladesh

Munir Uz Zaman / AFP / Getty Images

Set in the low-lying Ganges–Brahmaputra River Delta, Bangladesh faces extreme climatic conditions and geographical disadvantages that make this country highly susceptible to natural disasters. Calamities such as floods, tropical cyclones, and tidal bores occur frequently. In addition, sea levels are expected to rise more than 10.5 inches by 2050. If the ocean rises more than 17.7 inches, Bangladesh stands to lose 10% of its land area.

And, like Venice, Bangladesh is sinking. The nation relies almost entirely on groundwater for drinking supplies because the rivers are so polluted. The more water Bangladesh draws from the ground, the lower the country sinks.

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Arctic Tundra

Arctic tundra

Jack French / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

Global warming heats up the Arctic twice as fast as the rest of the world, meaning this region's beautiful northern tundra could vanish completely if temperatures continue to rise. The Arctic Tundra in the northernmost latitudes of the world is rapidly greening, meaning that vegetation is taking over. About 38% of the west-central tundra displayed this between 1985 and 2016. Greening may sound positive, but it's profoundly detrimental to this biome. As the tundra melts and greens, it drastically alters the ecosystem, contributes to rising sea levels, and releases additional carbon, hastening global warming. The Arctic Tundra may not still be a true tundra in the future.

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South Australia

Sahara Desert in Africa

edella / Shutterstock

Much like the Sahara in Africa, desertification threatens South Australia. Australia is already the driest continent, growing drier every year. This continent is approximately one-fifth desert and receives only about 19 inches of rainfall in an average year. Across the region, freshwater supplies are drying up, increasing the likelihood of wildfires. Starting in June 2019 and continuing into 2020, catastrophic bushfires took place in Australia, burning over 73,000 square miles of land and forest and leaving 33 people dead. To prevent further disasters, the Australian government will restrict development in fire-prone regions and closely monitor the effects of climate change.

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The Alps

European Alps with trees covering

Zacharie Grossen / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

The European Alps spread across parts of Italy, Switzerland, France, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Germany, Austria, and Monaco. These beautiful snow-covered mountains, which cover an area of over 118,000 square miles, draw tourists, particularly skiers, from around the world, but they're seeing the effects of global warming. The glaciers of the Alps have begun melting at an accelerated rate and scientists predict that they could shed 90% of their volume by 2100. If this happens, clean water availability would be affected, local ecosystems would suffer, and the European economy would lose a large source of annual revenue.

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