New legal brief outlines how America’s historic places are at risk from climate change

Media Contacts

Key organizations add support in Clean Power Plan lawsuit

Environment America

WASHINGTON — Environment America and the National Trust for Historic Preservation filed an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit challenging the Affordable Clean Energy Rule, a new set of regulations created by the Trump administration. Unless defeated in court, this plan will sharply increase U.S. greenhouse gas emissions driving global warming, which, among other impacts, will spur a tremendous rise in sea levels.

“Many of our nation’s iconic historic places are along the coasts, and those places are at tremendous risk from the rising seas and more ferocious storms turbocharged by global warming,” said Environment America’s Senior Director of Global Warming Solutions Andrea McGimsey. “Are we willing to allow our American legacy to become a modern-day Atlantis?”

The amicus brief highlights risks created by climate change to four of our country’s most historic cities and national landmarks: Annapolis, Maryland; Charleston, South Carolina; Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty in New York City, New York; and St. Augustine, Florida. These endangered places are not alone. Almost half of all Congressional districts are located in threatened coastal areas, which could also see similar historic losses. Beyond sea level rise, extreme weather from climate change can lead to increased flooding and fires as well. These natural disasters may also cause irreparable destruction to our national heritage in inland locations.

“Historic landmarks and communities throughout the United States are threatened by climate change, and these irreplaceable sites provide us with an essential understanding of who we are,” said Thompson M. Mayes, chief legal officer and general counsel of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, “This brief aims to express just how dangerous EPA’s weakened regulations on global warming could be to our shared sense of history.”

The brief argues that the Environmental Protection Agency drafted the Affordable Clean Energy Rule without adequately considering its impact to historic resources and communities. Already, seas are expected to rise as much as four feet by the end of this century, according to the National Climate Assessment. In addition, climate change’s impact on heightening the intensity of flooding, storms and fires will further exacerbate this problem.

“Ultimately, every American should ask this question: Can we continue to ignore the climate crisis and risk a watery demise for our historic coastal communities, or will we give our most beloved cities and towns a fighting chance to stay above water?” McGimsey said.