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article imageHistory underwater — The threat of rising sea levels

By Karen Graham     Apr 11, 2016 in Environment
Newport - The growing threats from climate change are becoming more visible to us as we weather stronger storms and droughts. But rising sea levels are also starting to threaten our coastlines, and we can already see the damage that will come.
Rising sea levels are threatening numerous important historical sites along the Eastern Seaboard and the Gulf of Mexico in the Continental United States and in Hawaii, where a number of national monuments are considered at risk. At the international level, dozens of UNESCO World Heritage sites have also been identified as being at risk from rising sea levels.
Regardless of where the sites are located, they are part of our world heritage, a reminder of who we are and where we have come from. Today these sites face an uncertain future from climate change. Besides rising sea levels, there is the threat of wildfires, increased flooding and other damaging effects of the changing climate.
This week, in Newport, Rhode Island, one of the areas under threat from rising sea levels, a group of scientists, historic preservationists, architects and public officials are meeting to discuss the problem of how to protect our national monuments and heritage sites, and how we can adapt to the encroachment of the ocean.
"Any coastal town that has significant historic properties is going to be facing the challenge of protecting those properties from increased water and storm activity," said Margot Nishimura, of the Newport Restoration Foundation, the nonprofit group hosting the conference, as reported by CTV News.
Federal authorities are telling us we need to elevate structures in low-lying areas, but that advice will not always work, especially when the integrity of the structure will have to be changed in order to preserve its character. Take for example some of the historic colonial structures built around brick chimneys. An impossible task, at the least.
Fort Lauderdale  Florida  is at risk from rising sea levels.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is at risk from rising sea levels.
Dave/Flickr Creative Commons/CC BY 2.0
Adam Markham, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, and a speaker at the conference, told ABC News many of the most threatened sites lie along the East Coast of the U.S. between Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and on up to southern Maine. In this area, sea level rise is among the fastest in the world.
He had a very sobering prediction. "We're actually not going to be able to save everything," he said.
The Union of Concerned Scientists has issued a report highlighting 30 at-risk locations in the United States. The sites were chosen because of the science behind the risks and also because they focus on the different kinds of climate impacts already affecting our cultural heritage.
Hurricane Sandy’s massive storm surge destroyed most of the radio equipment  electrical infrastruc...
Hurricane Sandy’s massive storm surge destroyed most of the radio equipment, electrical infrastructure, and security systems of both Liberty and Ellis Islands. Floodwaters inundated three-quarters of Liberty Island—some of the aftermath can be seen in the picture.
At some sites, such as Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, work has already started on protecting these iconic and culturally significant monuments. After Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, the Statue of Liberty was closed for eight months, and Elis Island, the first place immigrants coming to America between 1892 and 1954 set foot on, was closed for nearly a year.
More about Rising sea levels, Cultural heritage, coastal towns, one meter rise, Climate change
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