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Aligns with articles 5, 7 and 10 in the Terra Carta mandate

Climate Change Hazard Map

A story of how the National Trust equipped their people with the knowledge and the tools to care for our historic and natural environment.

By Lizzy Carlyle

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The Adaptation Challenge

Climate change is the single biggest threat to the places in our care. The National Trust Heritage sites include swathes of countryside, rugged beauty spots, 800 miles of coastline, over 400 historic estates and houses, designed landscapes with an array of diverse habitats, archaeological monuments and all aspects of their natural heritage such as rivers, mountains, sites of special scientific interest, and peatlands.

It has been difficult to get to grips with the projected climate scenarios and to understand what these might mean for their places and people. Where data does exist, it is spread out across multiple sources, and where associated guidance has been produced it is often to a middle-range scenario.

They recognised the need to adapt to climate change as well as mitigate their impacts, and to do this they needed to understand the potential range of exposure scenarios that may confront them as an organisation over the next century, and beyond.

The Climate Change Hazard Map will help to keep them on a pathway that recognises and allows them to adapt to plan for the potential impact of hazards, the significance of these on what they are tasked with looking after, how they resource their activity, and how people will continue to benefit from their work within a changing climate.

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The hazard map shows the different potential climate change threats – including the risk of overheating and humidity.

To access the Climate Change Hazard Map, click here

The map has helped the National Trust to identify and prioritise those sites which are most “exposed” to climate hazards, and where they should focus their effort, with an understanding of their vulnerability. From this, and from a large number of case studies they have been collating, they can begin to assess the impacts of climate change on their places, and plan for adaptation options and trigger points for changes to how they make decisions about conservation.

Creating the Climate Change Hazard Map

The National Trust specialists have worked with climate scientists and data modellers to collate data, set thresholds for when a hazard is flagged to be high, medium or low to a particular area, and map for anyone to view – showing the potential for hazards in 2020, and in 2060, based on the worst-case climate scenario (known as RCP 8.5).

The hazard map plots data in such a way that the Trust can identify the hazard level facing the places they, and others care for, including the countryside, monuments, coastlines and historical sites across England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. By plotting these places alongside existing data on climate change related events, they are able to better understand how, at a local scale, potential risk factors (extreme heat and humidity, landslides, soil heave and storm damage) could change by 2060.

The maps were originally for England, Northern Ireland and Wales, but they have now partnered up with Historic Environment Scotland to fund the data to cover the whole of the United Kingdom. They are working in partnership with government bodies with the aim of plotting all cultural heritage sites.

Worst-Case Models

Working to a worst-case model of no intervention on emissions, the map is used as a “flagging tool” to highlight potential hazards to the locality of a site. It’s the first map of its kind to bring together data from different sources, and flag the potential for change over the next 40 years.

The map helps to pinpoint locations that may need swifter attention and even intervention to safeguard what makes them important and special against worsening climate hazards.

By planning for the worst and hoping for the best, the Trust can give their places and people the tools and advice they need to prepare for what climate hazards have to throw at the historic and natural environment.

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They have shared this map with their site managers and with other caretakers of similar places in order to highlight the hazards and understand the need to research and develop ways to look after these places now, in light of weather changes they know are coming.

Adaptation to climate change remains the toughest area of climate action as it is hard to predict, hard to quantify and very hard to plan for when the future is so uncertain.

Working Together

The map has kick-started discussions across multiple sectors, from heritage conservation to tourism to weather forecasting, to look at how this data can help site managers to understand the potential risk of climate hazards in their location now, and in the future, in order to help them prepare to adapt to climate change.

The pioneering approach 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 FOR THE INDEPENDENT CLIMATE CHANGE COMMITTEE

The map also facilitates a joined-up approach in which neighbours, communities, landowners, charities and developers can come together to identify risks and collectively intervene to tackle issues and make both local and large-scale change.

We encourage everyone to access and utilise the hazard map ; from individuals to business through to policy makers, as well as national and local government.

Everyone can use the map to better understand the risks to our heritage and landscape, so we can work together to help adapt and prepare in the face of climate change.

Evolving the map

The map was initially released eight months before world leaders gathered in Glasgow for COP26, where further announcements and commitments were made to tackle the climate crisis at a global level.

The map has already been used to pinpoint locations that may need interventions, and has multiple phases to test, develop further understanding, and provide guidance.

Learn more here

This case study was prepared by the National Trust and aligns with articles 5, 7, and 10 in the Terra Carta mandate.