We must protect historic sites from the damage of climate change

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Pemaquid Point Lighthouse and nearby Fog Bell House have protected Maine’s rocky coast for nearly 200 years. This landmark is so iconic that it appears in districts across the state. But last month’s severe storms left much of the bell tower in ruins, with the historic bell lying abandoned on a pile of bricks after two of the building’s walls caved in.

The previous day, a similar storm occurred about 800 miles to the south, leaving parts of the historic district of Annapolis, Maryland, under about 3 feet of water. The history of the port and surrounding buildings dates back to his 18th century.th It tells an important story as one of the region’s earliest slave ports.

This damage to historic sites is just one example of how climate change is increasingly threatening some of America’s most cherished historic sites and landmarks, many of which have extraordinary significance. Masu. From the Statue of Liberty to the Florida coast, rising sea levels and extreme weather are putting historic sites at risk. And it’s not just a flood. The effects of climate change may have been exacerbated by last year’s wildfires in Lahaina, Hawaii, which claimed 100 lives and destroyed the town’s beloved historic district.

Without planning, investment, and policy changes, America’s situation will continue to be affected by similar events in the future. The impact on our economy, local tourism, and our ability to learn about and learn from our past will be profound and irreversible. The federal government must commit more jobs, research funding, and data infrastructure to protect historic places and adapt to climate risks.

That’s why, as Secretary of the Federal Office of Historic Preservation, I recently asked Congress to create a federal Office of Climate Heritage.

The Historic Preservation Advisory Commission is tasked with protecting historic and cultural sites and managing the nation’s preservation agenda. Earlier this year, the advisory committee adopted the federal government’s first policy statement on climate change and historic preservation. This statement urges decision-makers to take steps to make historic assets more resilient, to consider such assets when preparing for and responding to disasters, and to ensure that historic buildings can contribute to decarbonization. It calls for promoting and investing in the reuse of materials. Additionally, many places at risk from climate change impacts, including many cultural landscapes and sacred assets to Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations, disproportionately affect underserved communities. I am also aware of my location.

Establishing a Climate Heritage Secretariat in the United States would send a strong signal about the urgency of addressing these challenges. Such an office would help strengthen the approach to disaster recovery through regulatory and statutory recommendations. It will develop creative mitigation and adaptation strategies that architects, engineers, and conservationists can use in the field. This will provide guidance on how building and energy standards can be amended to ensure that historic buildings can mitigate the effects of climate change. It could also coordinate government-wide plans to strengthen historic infrastructure such as bridges and roads, and to protect and adapt cultural landscapes.

The Climate Heritage Office can also help identify and coordinate needed research. Staff can assess the likelihood that all types of climate risks, such as sea level rise, drought, wildfires, and extreme precipitation, will damage or destroy historic and cultural resources. They were able to identify the best materials, methods, and structures to adapt these resources to fire, flooding, and other threats. They could then analyze what financial incentives and investments would maximize the preservation of historic sites at risk.

Collaboration with tribes and indigenous peoples is also essential and can inform effective climate recovery strategies. Understanding traditional cultural practices related to forest management, coastline protection, sustainable construction, and centering nature-based solutions provides more tools to tackle this increasingly complex problem. may be useful for policy makers who require

America’s conservation, cultural resources, and tribal communities have collectively sounded the alarm about climate-based threats to our heritage for years. The establishment of a federal climate heritage office could be a decisive step to strengthen our resilience, foster innovation and preserve the stories that make us who we are.

Sarah C. Bronin chairs the Historic Preservation Advisory Commission, an independent federal agency that promotes the preservation of our nation’s diverse historic resources and advises the President and Congress on national historic preservation policy.

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