Ancient ruins are being destroyed.
From ancient ruins in Thailand to a 12th-century settlement off Africa's eastern coast, prized sites around the world have withstood centuries of wars, looting and natural disasters. But experts say they might not survive a more recent menace: a swiftly warming planet.
"Our world is changing, there is no going back," Tom Downing of the Stockholm Environment Institute said Tuesday at the U.N. climate conference, where he released a report on threats to archaeological sites, coastal areas and other treasures.
Recent floods attributed to climate change have damaged the 600-year-old ruins of Sukhothai in northern Thailand, the report said, while increasing temperatures are "bleaching" the Belize barrier reef and a rising sea level is sending damaging salt into the wetlands of Donana National Park in Spain.
Downing also said the ocean could eventually engulf ancient settlements such as the Old City on Kenya's Lamu island, which dates to the 12th century and has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Lamu is vital to Africa's history; Omani Arab sultans who ruled the eastern coast of the continent first settled there before moving to Zanzibar. They left behind winding alleyways and an unspoiled 8-mile-long sandy beach that now attracts tourists to Lamu.
Thailand's ruins of Sukhothai - which means "dawn of happiness" - include artifacts from ancient royal palaces, Buddhist temples and city gates. Founded in 1238, Sukhothai was once capital of a Thai kingdom.
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