‘Concerned Scientists’ Warn Climate Change Will Take Out Boston Landmarks

Mother Nature has three big targets in her sights, they said.

An independent group of scientists released a report this week that warns officials that historic Boston neighborhoods and landmarks are at risk of being destroyed by flooding due to extreme climate change and devastating storms.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, a group that was formed at MIT in the late 1960s, rising sea tides and other natural disasters are threatening treasured monuments and structures all across the country. Here in Boston, they said, three spots could be particularly hard hit in the event of a serious storm. “Many of the United States’ iconic landmarks and heritage sites are at risk as never before. Sea level rise, coastal erosion, increased flooding, heavy rains, and more frequent large wildfires are damaging archaeological resources, historic buildings, and cultural landscapes across the nation,” researchers said in their report, which highlights 30 “at risk” places across the country. “Boston’s historic Long Wharf, the Blackstone Block, and Faneuil Hall are all at risk from rising seas.”

The group, a non-profit organization with national headquarters in Brattle Square in Cambridge, outlined the known historical significance of these places in the city in their extensive report, and warned of the types of impending damages that could be done in the event of another nor’easter or major hurricane, like the ones Boston and the Northeast region have already experienced in the past few years.

They said so far, Boston has been relatively lucky in that the city has only experienced minor flooding and damages in the face of weather disasters like Superstorm Sandy. But there’s no telling what the future will bring, as the impacts of climate change continue to threaten areas along Boston’s coastline. “If the worst of the storm surges had hit at high tide, major flooding could have occurred, inundating much of the waterfront, past Faneuil Hall up to City Hall, and the part of the North End where Paul Revere began his ride,” researchers said in their call for action.

While the cautionary tales detailed in the Union of Concerned Scientists’ latest report are nothing new to the city, who have dedicated resources to combating climate change and making sure structures erected near Long Wharf and in the Innovation District are better equipped to handle potential flood threats, the group thought it important to keep these warnings fresh in elected officials’ minds.

“Boston officials know that they can’t depend on this good fortune to continue indefinitely,” scientists said in the reporting, highlighting Mayor Marty Walsh’s administration’s work to adhere to climate change mitigation and adaptation. “Boston has improved its emergency warning systems for flooding, high winds, and winter storms.”

Governor Deval Patrick and Walsh are already on board, however. In January, after a series of frightening and threatening storms that damaged the coastline, Patrick said his administration would be investing $10 million in “critical coastal infrastructure” and dam repair, which included $1 million in municipal grants offered by the Office of Coastal Zone Management, to help reduce the risks associated with coastal storms and rising sea levels. Walsh joined Patrick during the announcement, and said the state has always governed with “an eye towards the future,” meaning that since the devastating effects of climate change can mean increased spending for clean-up efforts, it’s important to invest in better protective, preventative measures.

But even with officials already doing their part, the Union of Concerned Scientists said more can be done at the federal level, specifically by cutting carbon emissions and increasing funding to combat changing weather patterns. “If future generations of Americans are to experience the joy and wonder that these extraordinary places engender, we must act now to protect them from the impacts of climate change,” they said.

Read the full report below:

National Landmarks at Risk Full Report