…As Oil price rises ahead of OPEC meeting in Vienna, uncertainty lingers***
Large tracts of America’s east coast heritage are at risk from being wiped out by sea level rise, with the rising oceans set to threaten more than 13,000 archaeological and historic sites, according to new research.
Even a modest increase in sea level will imperil much of the south-eastern US’s heritage by the end of the century, researchers found, with 13,000 sites threatened by a 1m increase.
Thousands more areas will be threatened as the seas continue to climb in the years beyond this, forcing the potential relocation of the White House and Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC and inundation of historic touchstones such as the Kennedy Space Center and St Augustine, Florida, which lays claim to being the oldest city in the US.
“There are going to be a lot of cultural sites lost and the record of humanity’s history will be put at risk,” said David Anderson, a University of Tennessee anthropologist who led the published research.
“Some sites will be destroyed, some buried in marshes. We may be able to relocate some. In some places it will be devastating. We need to properly understand the magnitude of this.”
Threatened areas, including locations on the national register of historic places, include Native American sites that date back more than 10,000 years, as well as early colonial settlements such as Jamestown, Virginia and Charleston, South Carolina. Researchers pinpointed known sites using topographical data and analyzed how they would fare in various sea level rise scenarios.
Florida, which has a southern portion particularly vulnerable to sea level rise, has the most sites in danger from a 1m raising of the oceans, followed by Louisiana and Virginia.
A 1m sea level rise by 2100 could prove optimistic, with several studies showing the increase could be much greater. Scientists have warned that the break up of the Antarctic ice sheet could significantly fuel sea level rise, pushing the global increase to around 6ft by 2100.
The latest US government estimate predicts a worldwide increase of 1ft to 4ft by 2100, although an 8ft rise “cannot be ruled out”.
The eastern seaboard of the US is at particular risk, with water piling up along the coast in greater volumes than the global average. The problem is compounded by areas of the coast, such as in New Jersey and Virginia, gradually subsiding due to long-term geological hangover from a vast ice sheet that once covered much of North America.
Sea level rise is expected to displace millions of people from the US coasts over the next coming decades, with Anderson warning this will create further damage to heritage sites as people move inland.
There is still some uncertainty over the exact timescale involved in the changes – it may take several hundred years for some coastal places to be at risk – leading to hopes that coastlines can be adapted in time in order to protect vital infrastructure and sacred sites. But losses appear inevitable.
“Putting a sea wall around the whole of the US won’t be an easy thing to do and would cause a lot of damage elsewhere,” said Anderson. “We are going to have to do a lot of planning as a civilization in the next 50 to 100 years and we have to take heritage into account.”
In the meantime, oil prices rose on Thursday ahead of an OPEC meeting in Vienna at which producers are expected to extend a supply-cut deal that came into effect in January with the goal of tightening supplies and propping up prices.
The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) will be meeting at its headquarters in the Austrian capital, along with ministers from other oil producing countries, most importantly Russia.
OPEC is scheduled to hold an open session, including media, at 10 a.m. (0900 GMT) in Vienna on Thursday, before going into a closed session at noon, according to a tentative programme on OPEC’s website.
Non-OPEC ministers are set to join at 3 p.m., followed by a joint press conference after the meeting.
Brent crude oil futures for February, the international benchmark for oil prices, were at 62.73 dollars a barrel . Oil was 67.90 dollars five weeks ago. .
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at 57.45 dollars a barrel.
While there has not been an official statement, OPEC and Russia seem ready to prolong their oil supply cuts until the end of 2018. The cuts were put in place last January and are set to expire next March.
However, an extension may include a review in June should healthy demand amid ongoing supply restraint overheat the market.
ANZ bank said “anything less than a nine-month extension to the current production agreement could see the recent sell-off accelerate.”
Additional report from Guardian UK