CASE STUDY NATIONAL TRUST
‘A game changer’ – 3Keel and National Trust map climate risks to historic UK sites
We’ve been working with the National Trust and Geo Smart Decisions to create a ‘pioneering approach’ to mapping the key climate threats faced by historic sites in the UK at present and in the future.
he National Trust and 3Keel have been working together to assess climate risk, and recently collaborated with Geo Smart Decisions to develop a “game changing” map that illustrates the threat climate change poses to some of the Trust’s most iconic and culturally significant sites – and offers some solutions on how to tackle it.
It is the first map of its kind that plots data in this way and will help the charity identify the hazard level facing its countryside locations, monuments, coastlines and historical sites in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
By plotting its places alongside existing data on climate change related events, the charity is able to understand how, at a local scale, potential risk factors (extreme heat and humidity, flooding, landslides, coastal erosion, soil heave and storms) could change by 2060.
Working to a worst-case model of no intervention on emissions, the map is intended to be used as a “flagging tool” to highlight potential hazards to the locality of a site. This will then be used to inform early intervention to mitigate damage by climate-driven risks.
The data also means landowners can come together with a joined-up approach and engage local communities to volunteer in their area and help with the fight. By identifying areas at risk, the charity can pinpoint locations that may need intervention like tree planting to slow water run-off, peat bog restoration to hold back water, river restoration or areas that need more shade due to extreme heat.
Assuming there was no intervention on emissions before 2060, key findings include:
- Around 71 per cent of National Trust sites could face medium to high risks from climate related hazards by 2060 – an increase from 30 per cent today
- Sites facing highest risks could triple, from 5 per cent to 17 per cent by 2060.
- The number of National Trust scheduled monuments in the highest threat areas are projected to increase from 1453 today to 3861 by 2060.
- Heat and humidity will rise dramatically, with the south east particularly susceptible to drastic increases. A third of National Trust sites in the region will experience at least 15 days of over 30 degrees a year. This will be exacerbated in urban areas like London, due to the Urban Heat Island effect.
- Storm damage, landslides and flooding we have experienced in recent years are set to become common occurrences and more widespread, particularly in Wales and the North of England
- Coastal erosion and flooding will increase in Northern Ireland, potentially leading to more landslides around locations like the world-famous Giants Causeway.
The National Trust is already taking measures to try and tackle the threat posed by climate change by planting or establishing 20 million trees – an area the size of Birmingham – and becoming carbon net zero by 2030.
The next phase of the project will identify areas in which homes for wildlife are at risk and where species reintroduction like beavers may help the environment. Coastal areas at risk of collapse or sand dune movements due to rising sea levels will also be highlighted in the future, which will also enable physical intervention.
Water or heat adaptive building materials will be used in areas shown as high risk from flooding or rising temperatures and humidity, or even inform where to build if an area is prone to soil heave. The charity’s historic buildings and collections can be protected from extreme weather conditions and resultant increase in pests and damage arising from humidity and water.
The release of the map comes eight months before world leaders gather in Glasgow for COP26 to formulate a global plan on how to tackle the climate crisis at a global level. The Trust is already working in partnership with government bodies to plot all cultural heritage sites in the UK. The next phase of the map will further refine the methodology to really tackle the impact of the crisis at home.
Check out the mapping tool here.
“This map is a game changer in how we face the threat climate change poses to the places we care for. While the data draws on a worst-case scenario, the map paints a stark picture of what we have to prepare for. But by acting now, and working with nature, we can adapt to many of these risks.
One of the most exciting opportunities here is the map ensures a joined-up approach in which neighbours, landowners, charities and developers can come together to identify risks and collectively intervene to tackle issues and make large scale change.
Planting trees, restoring peatlands, slowing the flow of water in flood prone river valleys and preparing our places and collections for the increased heat and humidity are some of the measures this map can inform.
And government can play its part by strengthening its environment bill and setting out a detailed and fully funded net zero delivery plan before world leaders come together at COP26 in November.”
Harry Bowell, National Trust Director for Land and Nature
“This map will support our research and analysis into the vulnerability and exposure of some of the nation’s most important and sensitive heritage sites to future climate change.
The pioneering approach could be used to inform our thematic reports and has the potential to shape the future of how we need to adapt to avoid some of the worst impacts of climate change at a local granular level.”
Spokesperson, Climate Change Committee
Sample map showing future risk from landslides in the UK (1 = low risk, 5 = high risk)