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Cultural sites at risk from climate change

Millions of Americans were riveted by scenes of death and destruction that two wildfires have visited on California communities, particularly Paradise, which is all but obliterated. At least 85 of its residents were killed, with many still missing and nearly 14,000 homes destroyed. The survivors throughout California deserve our help and our prayers.

But when the shock wears off — and for many it never will — they also deserve, as we all do, an honest conversation as to why these fires are more intense and more frequent than ever. Scientists tell us that climate change is a critical contributor, which makes this an important teachable moment. If we miss it — as we have missed others — we lose a unique opportunity to engage the nation on an issue that is essential to the future of our planet.

Climate change threatens virtually every aspect of life on Earth, none more important, of course, than life itself. Many say it is the ultimate national security issue of our time, and a new federal study leaves no doubt about its economic impact. But climate change also threatens much of our history, especially the history embodied in our “cultural sites,” the ruins and remnants of the first Americans passed down through multiple generations to the Native Americans of today. These cultural sites are, sadly, increasingly threatened by human activity, both directly and indirectly; primary among the latter — by climate change.

The Union of Concerned Scientists has named 30 significant U.S. sites at risk from the “damaging effects of climate change,” which it lists as rising sea levels, hotter and more frequent wildfires, increased flooding and erosion. Perhaps no cultural site on the list demonstrates these effects better than Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico. ...

Read entire article at The Santa Fe New Mexican