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In France, 5 exceptional natural sites threatened by global warming to discover urgently

Dizzying cliffs, huge glaciers or centuries-old forests, from Normandy to the Mediterranean via the Alps, global warming is wreaking havoc. Starting with some of the most beautiful French sites. Emblematic places close to home, accessible by train or bus, to be explored quietly out of season, because their second enemy is the crowd. So, take advantage of the low moments of the week or the year, leave no traces and only win fabulous photos. Pebbles, shells and other edeilweiss are never more beautiful than in their natural habitat.

The cliffs of Etretat

120 kilometers of high chalk cliffs between Le Havre and Le Tréport, a paradise for hikers. Especially those who leave on the GR21, sacred favorite trail of the French in 2020, or who stop there for a break on the Vélomaritime. Not to mention paddle board enthusiasts, another way to discover the hidden treasures of this extraordinary rocky coast, around 100 million years old, but particularly threatened today.
In Etretat, the condition of the cliffs is carefully monitored, victims of increasingly frequent landslides to the west of the city. After that of December 5, 2021, huge – ninety meters long by fifty meters wide and almost four meters high – a new landslide occurred on January 1, 2022 on Tilleul beach, and almost completely covered the beach. , confirming the progression of coastline retreat in recent years. A phenomenon that should only increase with global warming and the resulting rise in sea level. The attack of the waves at the foot of the cliffs becoming much more intense.

When to go?

The weather is really pleasant from June to October, but we will avoid the summer months, and especially the long weekends, preferring, if possible, January, February, March and November.

How Getting There ?

By train: from Paris, it is possible to reach Etretat by traveling on the Paris – Le Havre line then taking the Etretat – Lazare correspondence at Bréauté station.
By bus: in summer, as well as during weekends all year round, it is possible to reach Etretat thanks to shuttles leaving from the guard of Bréauté.

Sea ice

The sea of ​​ice

Emblematic site of mountaineering, the famous Mer de Glace, the largest glacier in the French Alps (7 km long) is a living witness to climate change. In one hundred and fifty years, it has receded by 2.7 kilometres. As the ice and snow melt, the mountain loses its white coat and turns gray. In 1870, this immense glacial valley with an area of ​​40 km2 was directly observable from Chamonix. Today, you have to take the Montenvers train and climb to more than 1,900 m in altitude to see it up close. Because since the middle of the 19th century, the Alps have gained more than 2°C and its glaciers are melting faster than anywhere else in the world.

When to go?

Prefer a visit in the morning, as some parts of the site close early in the afternoon and find out about the weather beforehand as the site may be closed due to bad weather.

How to get there ?

By train : from Paris, you can get by TGV train to Chamonix – Paris – Annecy
Paris – Chambery – Aix Les Bains
Paris – Saint Gervais Les Bains – Le Fayet
Once you have arrived from Paris at one of these stations, the connection to Gervais Les Bains – Le Fayet, a station which is only 20 km from Chamonix, is made by train (TER – Train Express Régional).
By bus : possible connections from the train stations mentioned above.
Access to the Montenvers-Mer de Glace site (1913 meters): you have to either hike up there or take the famous little red cogwheel train, Le Train du Montenvers, from Chamonix Mont-Blanc (Gare du Montenvers).

Fontainbleau Forest

The forest of Fontainebleau

Second national forest in France – the largest in Ile-de-France – the forest of Fontainebleau is located just 60 kilometers south of Paris. It is a unique space, classified in the network of UNESCO biosphere reserves and among the Natura 2000 sites. Between moors and rocky chaos, its 25,000 hectares offer exceptional fauna and flora. Nearly 6,600 animal species rub shoulders with 5,685 listed plant species: oaks, Scots pines, birches and beeches. The massif includes three national forests: Trois Pignons, Fontainebleau and La Commanderie, as popular with hikers – – 1,600 km of forest roads and 300 km of marked trails – as with climbers.
Unfortunately the site suffers from climate change. In February 2020, the ONF announced that nearly one hundred hectares of dead pines – a species renowned for its resistance – were going to be felled because of the high temperatures. A first for the organization’s technicians, a direct consequence of the severe droughts of 2018 and 2019 as well as the rise in temperatures in the summer of 2020, even though the pine is reputed to be very robust.
The deforested areas will not be replanted, explained the ONF, and will thus make it possible to offer open environments and to preserve certain species, such as the lulu lark. On the other hand, global warming is pushing the ONF to work on new, more resistant species, to be planted in the coming years in French forests. A phenomenon that is not isolated. According to the organization, in France, at the end of less than one generation, a third of the forest will be impacted by the rise in temperatures, or 10% of the national territory.

When to go?

All seasons are beautiful in Fontainebleau, but we have a weakness for autumn, where the colors are striking. The forest is very busy on weekends of course, but the site is so vast that you can always find quiet paths there, as long as you don’t mind walking a little.

How to get there ?

Located 60 km from the capital, it only takes 40 minutes to get there. By RER or bus, Gare de Fontainebleau – Avon Line R. Note that every weekend, from Gare de Lyon, line R stops at the Fontainebleau-Forêt stop and leaves you directly in the middle of the forest. But be careful, remember to bring an IGN map, because once you get off the train, you will be on your own.


The Camargue

The second largest delta in the Mediterranean, the Camargue is a unique wetland, a subtle exchange between fresh river water, seawater and precipitation. This makes it an exceptional reserve for biodiversity, both in terms of fauna and in particular migratory birds, and flora. But climate change directly threatens its 150,000 hectares of marshes, farmland and lagoons. In Saintes-Marie-de-la-Mer, some dykes built along the beaches in the 1980s are now submerged, and coastal erosion is progressing. The Camargue can certainly absorb very strong variations, it has done so for several millennia, but the repetition of these extreme climatic conditions could be fatal to it. To the point that faced with this rising water level which seems inevitable, in the more or less long term, part of the population of the Camargue will undoubtedly have to be relocated according to certain estimates.

When to go?

The Camargue is fascinating all year round, but we should avoid summer – and therefore the tourist crowds and the high temperatures – to make the most of hikes or horseback riding from autumn to spring.

How to get there ?

By train: on board the TER LANGUEDOC-ROUSSILLON (ter and bus). Nearest station: Vauvert station Nîmes – Le Grau du Roi line (With stops at the station in Beauvoisin / Vauvert / Le Cailar / Aimargues.
By bus: On board LIO (bus):
Line 132 (La Grande Motte, Le Grau-du-Roi, Nîmes)
Line 133 (Le Cailar, Vauvert, Vestric, Uchaud, Bernis, Aubord and Nîmes)
Line 134 (Vauvert, Vestric, Beauvoisin, Générac, Aubord and Nîmes)

Ua Pou

The island of Ua Pou (French Polynesia)

In recent years, overseas territories have been on the front line in the face of climate change. Very vulnerable because of their insularity, they bear the brunt of all the consequences, from the rising waters, to the increase in violent storms and drought. From the West Indies to Polynesia, no one is spared. In particular Ua Pou, in the Marquesas Islands, where in the west of the island in particular, the lack of rain is gradually transforming into a desert what has long been considered a small paradise. To the point that large-scale fires are now to be feared.

When to go?
Prefer the austral winter, from mid-April to October.

How to get there ?

Of course you can take a flight to Papeete, then a plane or boat connection to the island, but why not try a freighter trip from France?

Header photo: Adobe Stock

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