Heritage sites associated with abolitionist, including Underground Railroad park, projected to be inundated at high tide by 2050
On the flat, marshy stretches of Marylands eastern shore, not a huge amount has changed since Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery here 170 years ago. Rivers and streams lace a wedge of land dotted with wood-board churches and small towns. Crabs and oysters are plucked from the adjacent Chesapeake Bay.
The climate crisis is set, however, to completely transform low-lying Dorchester county, threatening to submerge some of the key heritage associated with Tubman, the celebrated abolitionist whose daring missions helped free scores of slaves from bondage in her homeland.
If planet-warming emissions arent radically scaled back then swaths of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad national historical park, only established in 2013, will be inundated at high tide by 2050, according to projections by University of Maryland scientists.
A $22m (17m) Tubman visitor centre, completed in 2017, is set to be severely menaced by the rising waters, the analysis finds, along with several churches connected to Tubman and Joseph Stewarts canal, where timber was transported from a business that had enslaved her father.
Dorchester county is a poster child as to what the rest of the world can expect with flooding, said Peter Goodwin, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.
The county doesnt rise more than 1.5 metres (5ft) above sea level and is exposed on three sides to the bay, which can act as a funnel to push storms on to the land. The seas could swell by as much as 60cm by 2050, a situation compounded by the fact the land is sinking, a hangover caused by the retreat of ice sheets from the last ice age.