Climate change endangers historic US landmarks

May 20, 2014 by Kerry Sheridan
The Statue of Liberty is pictured in New York, on May 14, 2014

Climate change and sea level rise are threatening historic US landmarks, from the Statue of Liberty to NASA's coastal rocket launch sites, and the nation needs to prepare, scientists said Tuesday.

"The range and scale of impacts are alarming," said the report by the Union of Concerned Scientists that listed more than two dozen landmarks endangered by wildfires, coastal erosion and flooding—events scientists say are being made worse by global warming.

They include the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in New York Harbor, which was the entry point for 14 million immigrants from 1886 to 1924.

Sea level has risen 12 inches (30 centimeters) around New York City over the past century, the report said.

Then came Hurricane Sandy in 2012, which flooded most of Liberty Island and all of Ellis Island, destroying most of their infrastructure and forcing their closure for months.

New York is now rebuilding electrical systems on the islands "as much as 20 feet above and designing the heating and air conditioning systems to withstand flooding," the report said.

Other sites at risk include the first permanent British colony in North America at Jamestown Island in Virginia, and historic Charleston, South Carolina.

Another is Fort Monroe, where the first African slaves arrived in 1619 and where 250 years later they were given refuge as "contraband" of the American Civil War, a move that paved the way for the abolition of slavery.

"The voices of our ancestors speak to us from these places," said Alan Spears, historian and director of cultural resources at the National Parks Conservation Association.

US space agency retreats

Five of seven of NASA's multi-billion dollar coastal complexes famous for training astronauts and launching historic missions to space are also at risk.

From Cape Canaveral in Florida to mission control in Houston, the US is busily building seawalls where possible and moving some buildings further inland.

"According to NASA's planning and development office, rising sea levels are the single largest threat to the Kennedy Space Center's continued operations," said the report.

One key NASA site that is succumbing to rising seas is Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, where 16,000 rockets have launched and where sea level has surged nine inches (23 centimeters) since it opened in 1945.

Another is Langley Research Center in Virginia, a $3.5 billion facility with specialized wind tunnels for simulating flight.

"Retreat is the way to go here, because you just can't like, get up and move. The infrastructure is too great," Russell De Young of the NASA science directorate at Langley told AFP.

"They are tearing down buildings that are at the water's edge and building new structures as far back as we can against the fence of the property line," he said.

The new complex is aptly named "New Town."

President Barack Obama in 2009 called on all government agencies to take steps to prepare for .

De Young said the space agency, like other government agencies with facilities on the coast, are trying to make incremental changes over the coming decades.

"This is not imminent," he said, noting that the forecast at Langley, which is in Hampton, Virginia, is for a five-foot (1.5-meter) from the 1980s through the year 2100.

Rising seas are not the only issue. Wildfires are getting more severe and less predictable, posing a major threat to 19th century California Gold Rush towns and ancient pueblos in New Mexico and Colorado, the report said.

The costs of rebuilding and preparing may be high, but the cost of doing nothing would be higher, experts said.

"This really is just the tip of the iceberg," said UCS director of climate impacts Adam Markham.

"We need to make adaptation a national priority and bring resources where they are needed."

Explore further: Sea level rise forces US space agency to retreat (Update)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Florida is 'Ground Zero' for sea level rise

Apr 22, 2014

Warm sunshine and sandy beaches make south Florida and its crown city, Miami, a haven for tourists, but the area is increasingly endangered by sea level rise, experts said Tuesday.

White House calls for urgent climate change action

May 06, 2014

The White House called Tuesday for urgent action to combat climate change, as it released a study on the impact of global warming across the United States and key sectors of the US economy.

Recommended for you

Coal gas boom in China holds climate change risks

2 hours ago

Deep in the hilly grasslands of remote Inner Mongolia, twin smoke stacks rise more than 200 feet into the sky, their steam and sulfur billowing over herds of sheep and cattle. Both day and night, the rumble ...

Water crisis threatens thirsty Sao Paulo

10 hours ago

Sao Paulo is thirsty. A severe drought is hitting Brazil's largest city and thriving economic capital with no end in sight, threatening the municipal water supply to millions of people.

User comments : 15

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

verkle
1.5 / 5 (8) May 20, 2014
If the "change" word was kept out of the title, it would be more accepted. And much more accurate.

Why has the ocean "risen" 12 inches just in New York? I suppose people who claim such things also try to consider how much New York has "sunk" in the past 100 years. And it probably is close to 12 inches.

orti
1.9 / 5 (9) May 20, 2014
"By the year 2000 the United Kingdom will be simply a group on impoverished islands inhabited by some 70 million hungry people … If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000" – Paul Ehrlich, Speech at British Institute of Biology, September 1971
Caliban
4.3 / 5 (6) May 20, 2014
"By the year 2000 the United Kingdom will be simply a group on impoverished islands inhabited by some 70 million hungry people … If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000" – Paul Ehrlich, Speech at British Institute of Biology, September 1971


Even so, he was pretty close in his predictions., especially the "impoverished islands inhabited by some 70 million hungry people" part.

But, if you are trying to use his overly-pessimistic estimates as a reason to ignore the inevitable and near-term effects of warming, then you should brace yourself for a fight.

ryggesogn2
1.4 / 5 (9) May 20, 2014
"We need to make adaptation a national priority and bring resources where they are needed."

Too bad this wasn't a priority 30 years ago.

impoverished islands inhabited by some 70 million hungry people" part.

But not because of climate.
It is the result of socialist policies advocated and promoted by Ehrlich and the other AGWites.
aksdad
1.5 / 5 (8) May 20, 2014
As usual the inaccurately-named Union of Concerned Scientists, which is not a scientific body, nor is it a union of scientists--a very small portion of its membership is made up of actual scientists--is promoting alarmism instead of science.

The NOAA tide gauge at Battery Park on the south end of Manhattan, a little over a mile from Ellis Island and a mile and a half from Liberty Island, has recorded sea level rise since about 1855:

http://tidesandcu...ry,%20NY

It shows sea level has risen about 11 inches in the last century. See if you can spot any acceleration in the trend that you can blame on global warming or on human CO2 emissions. You can't? Weird.

Global sea level rise in the last century was roughly 7 inches. The other 4 inches around New York is due to land subsidence, not rising seas.

When you build landmarks on islands 7 feet above sea level, they're going to flood now and then.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (4) May 20, 2014
Liberty Island is composed of sand and small rocks deposited from the last glacier melt.
chrisn566
1.7 / 5 (6) May 20, 2014
This site sure likes dwelling on global warming.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (7) May 21, 2014
To bad our forebears didn't have a little more understanding of the long term global warming taking place since the last ice age before they decided to develop in questionable areas.

Caliban
5 / 5 (5) May 21, 2014
To bad our forebears didn't have a little more understanding of the long term global warming taking place since the last ice age before they decided to develop in questionable areas.


Yeah, and even more too bad that our nowbears are failing to lift a finger to mitigate or forestall any of the easily foreseeable cause/effects of AGW, which are poised to undo a great deal of our ancestors' fine handiwork, especially since we have the knowledge to understand that it is coming.

In fact, it's already here.

ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (6) May 21, 2014
To bad our forebears didn't have a little more understanding of the long term global warming taking place since the last ice age before they decided to develop in questionable areas.


In the 1930s they did.
Few built close to the shore to avoid the inevitably hurricanes and high tide flooding.
Now with A/C and FEMA, cities are built right up to the edge of the beach.
Maggnus
5 / 5 (5) May 21, 2014
This site sure likes dwelling on global warming.
That is because there is a LOT of science being done with regards to it.

Your attitude typifies part of why so much is being done; it is possibly the most important challenge facing us right now, and people are becoming apathetic. Not because it's not happening, as the deniers on this site would have you believe, but because it is a foregone conclusion.

The debate is over, the problem now is what to do about it.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (5) May 22, 2014
That is because there is a LOT of science being done with regards to it.

Yes, EVERYTHING is now the fault of 'climate change'.
Therefore grants, plundered taxpayer wealth, are being doled out like candy to anyone who can show the dangers of 'climate change'.
Caliban
5 / 5 (3) May 22, 2014
That is because there is a LOT of science being done with regards to it.

Yes, EVERYTHING is now the fault of 'climate change'.
Therefore grants, plundered taxpayer wealth, are being doled out like candy to anyone who can show the dangers of 'climate change'.


That's right, rygsuckn', and next we'll be coming for the New Robber Baons' plundered, offshore-held wealth to pay for the fixes to avoid the worst effects of ongoing AGW.

30+ trillion USD. Just sittin' there....

ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (4) May 22, 2014
That is because there is a LOT of science being done with regards to it.

Yes, EVERYTHING is now the fault of 'climate change'.
Therefore grants, plundered taxpayer wealth, are being doled out like candy to anyone who can show the dangers of 'climate change'.


That's right, rygsuckn', and next we'll be coming for the New Robber Baons' plundered, offshore-held wealth to pay for the fixes to avoid the worst effects of ongoing AGW.

30+ trillion USD. Just sittin' there....


And this is why AGWites are socialists.
Caliban
5 / 5 (3) May 22, 2014
That is because there is a LOT of science being done with regards to it.

Yes, EVERYTHING is now the fault of 'climate change'.
Therefore grants, plundered taxpayer wealth, are being doled out like candy to anyone who can show the dangers of 'climate change'.


That's right, rygsuckn', and next we'll be coming for the New Robber Baons' plundered, offshore-held wealth to pay for the fixes to avoid the worst effects of ongoing AGW.

30+ trillion USD. Just sittin' there....


And this is why AGWites are socialists.


I recommended to the Secretariat that we begin the process with you, rygsuckn'.

The squeaking wheel gets the grease!