An aerial view of a hilly moorland landscape.
View eastwards over Five Barrows Hill, Exmoor National Park, Devon (photographed by Damian Grady). © Historic England Archive (image reference: 33021_024).
View eastwards over Five Barrows Hill, Exmoor National Park, Devon (photographed by Damian Grady). © Historic England Archive (image reference: 33021_024).

Introduction to The Climate Change Special Edition, Issue 19

Dr Hannah Fluck, Head of Environmental Strategy at Historic England, introduces this special climate change edition of our Latest Research feature.

The climate crisis is affecting our historic environment: the impacts of warmer wetter winters, hotter drier summers, increasingly intense rainfall, rising sea levels and changing patterns in our seasonal weather all exacerbate environmental hazards that affect our heritage. However, our historic environment and cultural heritage is also an important resource for understanding our changing climate, helping reduce carbon and helping people, places and communities adapt to future climates.

The articles included in this special issue present some of the ways in which Historic England and our partners are working to help better understand and respond to the challenges of climate change.

In order to face up to climate change impacts, it's vital to know exactly what hazards climate change will pose to the historic environment and this process of identification is the subject of Joshua Deru's contribution 'Mapping Climate Change Hazards to Historic Sites'.

A key climate change hazard identified for many of England's regions is overheating in summertime. Amad Kayani examines research into 'Overheating and Historic Buildings'; specifically the projected impact on the comfort of occupants and how this may be mitigated.

Increasing resilience of places and communities to be able to cope with climate change is an important goal of government policy and we are working with partners and commissioned  organisations to develop tools that enable managers and communities to do this with reference to their historic environment. The 'Building Climate Resilience Through Community Landscapes and Cultural Heritage' or 'Clandage' project led by Professor Neil Macdonald aims to contribute to this by capturing previous community adaptions from history, brought together in a GIS format.

In the related article on 'Historic Water Courses and Climate Change', Antony and Emma Firth also report on a GIS-based management tool, in this case to map the history of watercourses and floodplains to inform their resilience to climate change.

Mark Cannata introduces readers to the 'Kassandra' methodology for creating adaptation scenarios for the built historic environment, which harnesses Building Information Modelling (BIM).  We are funding work to apply this approach to Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site, the project runs from September 2021 to March 2022.

In 'Progress for Peatlands', Zoe Hazell explores the intertwined natural and historic value of peatlands and the efforts to manage and restore them. Critically for adapting to climate change, peatlands that are in good condition capture and store carbon, when they degrade they release it. As such they are the subject of a special 'Peatlands Pavilion' section at COP26 in Glasgow.

Finally, even with measures to mitigate or adapt to climate change, we must face the possibility that some parts of the historic environment may be lost. Coastal heritage in particular will be at greater risk of flooding, erosion and storm damage. So how will we cope with this loss? Tanya Venture sets out progress on a framework for 'Articulating Loss: Understanding and Communicating the Loss of Coastal Heritage'.

Dr Hannah Fluck

Head of Environmental Strategy at Historic England

Hannah oversees Historic England’s strategic work on climate change and is author of Historic England’s first Climate Change Adaptation report. She is a contributing author to the third UK Climate Change Risk Assessment, a reviewer of the IPCC special report on Climate Change and Land and is a selected participant of the ICOMOS/IPCC/UNESCO Co-Sponsored Meeting on Culture, Heritage and Climate Change. She is also a founding steering committee member of the Climate Heritage Network.

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