Australia’s world heritage properties, including the Sydney Opera House and Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens, are at risk from climate change, according to new research from the Australian National University.

There is currently a lack of data available about the potential impacts of climate change upon built heritage but higher sea and land surface temperatures, more severe storm events, ocean acidification and rising sea levels could damage heritage properties, the research predicts.

The study forecasts that the Sydney Opera House is at risk from projected sea level rise, being just 3.5 metres above sea level. The 580 piers sunk 25 metre below sea level and supporting the building structure could be damaged by rising salt levels, while storm surges on top of increased sea level could cause significant exterior damage. Higher temperatures and changes in humidity as well as extreme weather events, including wind, severe rain, lightning and hail, could have a direct impact on the fabric of buildings, according to the report.

The report also found that the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens, laid out by architect Joseph Reed in 1880, could be at risk from pest infestation or deterioration of fittings and murals as a result of changing soil moisture levels. ??Commissioned by the government, the report is being used by environment minister Peter Garrett, to push for an agreement on emissions cuts before an international conference in December. “The disintegration of our World Heritage areas would be an irreparable loss,” he said in a statement. “We must act now.”