Climate Change Could Bury, Burn US Landmarks

Group highlights 30 precious sites at risk

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted May 21, 2014 4:41 AM CDT | Updated May 21, 2014 7:53 AM CDT

(Newser) – Rising seas and wildfires caused by climate change are threatening to wipe out huge swathes of American history, from prehistoric sites in Florida and Alaska to the first English colony at Jamestown to NASA sites including the Kennedy Space Center, scientists warn. A Union of Concerned Scientists report highlights 30 sites at risk of being damaged or entirely wiped out by extreme weather events, the Smithsonian reports. "It's the whole sweep of American history," the director of climate impacts for the UCS says.

Some sites, including the Statue of Liberty, have taken steps to become more resilient to climate change, but Jamestown, one of the oldest sites listed, is in danger of becoming completely submerged by the end of the century, and rising waters have already forced archaeologists to change how they excavate the site. In Maryland, Annapolis, home to the largest collection of 18th-century colonial buildings in the US, is at risk from major storms, while ancient Pueblo sites in the Southwest have already been damaged by fires that get stronger as the region gets hotter and drier. "Fire resets the clock. It removes artifacts from time," a US Forest Service ecologist tells National Geographic. "If we start losing the archaeological record, we're never going to get it back."

Michael Lavin, left, and Carter Hudgins, right, work together to remove layers of dirt from the site of the first permanent English settlement in Jamestown, Va.   (AP Photo/Gary C. Knapp)
Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla. in 2007. The site is at risk from rising seas, despite efforts to restore protective dunes.   (AP Photo/Terry Renna)
The Statue of Liberty is shown at sunset, Friday, Jan. 31, 2014 in New York.   (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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