Climate change threatens US landmarks
The growing consequences of climate change are putting more than two dozen of the most iconic and historic sites in the US at risk, according to a new report.
From Ellis Island to the Everglades, Cape Canaveral to California's César Chávez National Monument, a lengthy list of treasured sites is being threatened by the effects of climate change, including rising sea levels and fires.
'National Landmarks at Risk', a report published by the Union of Concerned Scientists, identifies 30 at-risk locations that potentially face serious natural disasters. They also include the Statue of Liberty, Boston's historic districts, the Harriet Tubman National Monument in Maryland and an array of NASA sites including the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The not-for-profit organization said the locations were chosen "because the science behind the risks they face is robust, and because together they shine a spotlight on the different kinds of climate impacts already affecting the United States' cultural heritage".
At some sites — such as Liberty and Ellis Islands and Cape Hatteras — steps have already been taken to prepare for these growing climate risks. At many other sites, such efforts have not yet begun.
"The imminent risks to these sites and the artifacts they contain threaten to pull apart the quilt that tells the story of the nation's heritage and history," said Adam Markham, director of climate impacts at the union. "We must prepare our cherished landmarks for these worsening climate impacts and take steps to make climate resilience a national priority. At the same time, we must work to minimize these risks in the future by reducing the carbon emissions that are causing climate change and its accompanying impacts."
The Society for American Archaeology, a non-profit dedicated to protecting the archaeological heritage of the Americas and the world, issued a statement today in conjunction with the report release, calling for more attention to be paid to preserving endangered archaeological sites, marking the first time the organization has sought to draw public attention to the damage climate change is causing.
According to the UCS report, at least one historic site — Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the Americas — is likely to be submerged by rising seas by the end of the century, as are at least portions of others, including the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Cambridge, Maryland.
Without taking steps to preserve access, other sites also may become inaccessible to the public as sea levels rise.
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Statue of Liberty image via Shutterstock.