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The Impact of Climate Change on Cultural Heritage Sites: Environmental Law and Adaptation

Stefan Gruber


Climate change poses a severe threat to many cultural heritage sites. Threats include floods, increasing extreme weather events, desertification, deterioration of permafrost, and the decay of cultural landscapes. Protecting cultural heritage sites proves to be very difficult as they are very diverse. The key to successful mitigation is – in addition to reducing carbon emissions – to reduce stress from unsustainable activities, which may aggravate the negative impact of climate change. This paper argues that provisions from various areas of environmental law, such as heritage conservation law, pollution law, land use law, construction law, water law, environmental impact assessment law, and planning law, must be used in an integrated way with the aim of mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change on heritage properties. Of particular importance in this context is the application of the precautionary principle when dealing with heritage sites.


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