Scientists: Climate change puts historic sites at risk

Major historic sites in the United States are likely to be partially submerged by the end of the century as climate change causes sea levels to rise, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) said.

A Tuesday report from the group said Jamestown, Va., the first permanent English settlement in the Americans, is likely to be completely under water by 2100. Maryland’s Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument and Castillo de San Marcos in Florida will probably be partially submerged, the group said.


“You can almost trace the history of the United States through these sites,” Adam Markham, director of climate impacts at the UCS and a co-author of the report, said in a statement. “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.”

Climate change also threatens historic sites in Annapolis, Md., Charleston, S.C., and native Hawaiian structures.

Rising sea levels aren’t the only climate change-related problem for these sites. Historic sites in the West and southwestern United States are at risk due to wildfires and floods, which have also been exacerbated by climate change, the UCS said.

“During the last decade and a half, massive fires have swept through Mesa Verde National Park and Bandelier National Monument and other southwestern sites, damaging ancient pueblo masonry, petroglyphs and pottery,” Markham said, adding that floods have followed, damaging trials, buildings and archaeological resources.

The UCS recommended that the U.S. act to significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions to slow climate change. It also called for Congress to establish a climate resilience fund to protect against climate change’s effects.