Climate change challenges the protection of the aesthetical values that we commonly attach to the natural world heritage. This paper investigates the current evolution of environmental aesthetics and its links with environmental ethics. The main thesis is that we are at a crossroads. If we claim the existence of a world natural heritage based on a concept of nature as distinct and distinguishable from humanity, then aesthetic criteria overlapping with an ecological view of the world and the criteria themselves are undermined. This has two effects: protecting the beauty of nature becomes an ethical claim; we risk being unable to define nature in ‘its own terms’ given also the ongoing environmental changes. By contrast, we should only talk about cultural world heritage by acknowledging the importance of cultural images in perceiving nature. In this way aesthetic criteria can still play an important role in selecting which landscapes, and not any more which natural site, are beautiful.
Keywords: World Heritage, Climate Change, Beauty, Artefacts, Environmental Aesthetics, Wilderness, Landscape