The Union of Concerned Scientists recently released a report on the dangers that climate change pose to our cultural resources. The report is summarized here - History Under Water: Climate Change Imperils Historic, Cultural Sites. It's another example of the social cost of carbon (SCC). We could put some dollar estimates on this, from the lost National Park jobs and local economic dollars that flow from visitors (Mesa Verda had over a half million visitors in 2011) to the money required to repair, relocate and/or protect existing sites. But there’s another impact that’s much more difficult to assign a dollar value to. These sites help define, display and educate regarding our local, regional and collective national identities. Through the stories, landscapes and artifacts associated with these sites they help us remember where we came from, what mistakes not to repeat and the best part of our collective selves to pass along to future generations. Without them, it becomes that much easier to forget the what, why and how of who we were – the good and the bad. The loss of existing and undiscovered sites also represents a loss of future discovery as archaeological and other associated methods advance. And of course this same story applies globally. Follow the link to the actual Union of Concerned Scientists’ report and you’ll find a take action link for contacting your senators.
As an aside, the article reports that our National Parks have $11 billion dollars of deferred maintenance needs now, without even accounting for the resilience measures necessary to address the impacts of climate change. Our schools have $271 billion dollars of deferred maintenance just to get them back up to minimum standards. To actually modernize our schools would require $542 billion. Our drinking water infrastructure – $1 trillion+. Our bridges - $20.5 billion annually spent through 2028. And the list goes on and on relative to our national infrastructure. Plus there’s over $500 billion dollars of work out there to improve building energy efficiency, representing $130 billion dollars of savings annually in energy costs. A vast untapped reserve of jobs and economic boost is out there and energy efficiency itself represents a major wedge for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But we don’t seem to have the political will to do it. And in the meantime our infrastructure and cultural resources will continue to deteriorate, more rapidly with worsening climate change impacts, and with major ramifications to our safety, economy and national identity.