Map of the United States showing national landmarks that have been identified by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) as vulnerable to the effects of abrupt climate change, such as sea level rise and wildfires. Graphic: UCS

20 May 2014 (UCS) – The growing consequences of climate change are putting many of the country's most iconic and historic sites at risk.

From Ellis Island to the Everglades, Cape Canaveral to California's César Chávez National Monument, these sites symbolize values that unite all Americans — patriotism, freedom, democracy, and more — and together help weave the very fabric of our shared history.

Today these sites face a perilous and uncertain future in a world of rising sea levels, more frequent wildfires, increased flooding, and other damaging effects of climate change.

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 growing consequences of climate change are putting many of the country's most iconic and historic sites at risk.

From Ellis Island to the Everglades, Cape Canaveral to California's César Chávez National Monument, these sites symbolize values that unite all Americans — patriotism, freedom, democracy, and more — and together help weave the very fabric of our shared history.

Today these sites face a perilous and uncertain future in a world of rising sea levels, more frequent wildfires, increased flooding, and other damaging effects of climate change.

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.

An Annapolis statue commemorating 'Roots' author Alex Haley is inundated during Hurricane Isabel in 2003. Photo: UCS

A Vivid Illustration of an Urgent Problem

This report highlights 30 at-risk locations 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.

All the case studies draw on observations of impacts that are consistent with, or attibutable to, human-induced climate change based on multiple lines of scientific evidence.

National Landmarks at Risk: Case Study Sites

  • Alaska: Cape Krusenstern National Monument and Kivalina – Bering Land Bridge National Monument and Shishmaref
  • California: Groveland – César E. Chávez National Monument – NASA Ames Research Center
  • Colorado: Mesa Verde National Park
  • Florida: Castillo de San Marcos, Fort Mose, St. Augustine's historic downtown, and the Lincolnville Historic District in St. Augustine – Prehistoric shell structures at Ten Thousand Islands and Canaveral National Seashore – NASA Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral
  • Hawaii: Kaloko-Honokōhau and Pu'uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historic Parks
  • Louisiana: NASA Michoud Assembly Facility
  • Maryland: Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument – Historic Annapolis and U.S. Naval Academy
  • Massachusetts: Boston's Faneuil Hall and the Blackstone Block Historic District
  • Mississippi: NASA Stennis Space Center
  • New Mexico: Bandelier National Monument and Santa Clara Pueblo
  • New York: Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
  • North Carolina: Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
  • South Carolina: Charleston's Historic District
  • Texas: Johnson Space Center
  • Virginia: Historic Jamestown – Fort Monroe National Monument – NASA Wallops Flight Facility and Langley Research Center

A Call to Action

As these case studies illustrate, climate change is no longer a distant threat for others to worry about. The consequences are already underway, with serious and growing risks to the places and communities we care about.

If future generations of Americans are to experience the joy and wonder that these extraordinary places engender, we must act now to protect them from the impacts of climate change today and prepare them for expected additional changes tomorrow.

We must also take steps to minimize the risks of climate change in the future by taking immediate action to reduce the carbon emissions that are driving up the planet's temperature.

The historic legacy of the United States is at stake.

National Landmarks at Risk

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