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Heritage and Climate Change

Environmental impacts on the historic environment can involve flooding, coastal change, extreme weather events and changes in the distribution of species. Climate change is continually increasing the likelihood, magnitude and frequency of unpredictable and extreme weather events. These issues will affect all of us in the UK, whether directly or indirectly.

The historic environment is not immune from these changes. Structures which have been standing for hundreds of years are becoming unstable due to extremes of wetting, drying and temperature change. Our wildlife-filled wetlands and historic coasts are at risk of significant change.

A graveyard and church on the coast at St. Ives, Cornwall. St Ives experienced severe storm surges in early 2014.
The winter storms of 2013-2014 caused unprecedented damage to buildings and archaeology, all around the UK. © Historic England DP140979

However, taking action now will make it possible to help protect some of the historic environment, by developing adaptation measures and building resilience into our plans. Historic England is at the forefront of this issue, commissioning research and providing expert advice. As we move forward into climate-uncertainty, Historic England is continuing to focus on finding the best solutions to protect our vulnerable heritage.

The former Greenburn copper mine reservoir, Cumbria, with cotton-grass in the foreground.
This former reservoir used to serve the nearby copper mine, but has returned to its original state as a tarn, fostering wildlife and enhancing the diversity of the landscape. © Historic England DP57924
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