Global Climate Change Impact on Built Heritage and Cultural Landscapes
Climate change over the next 100 years is likely to have a range of direct and indirect effects on the natural and material environment, including cultural heritage. Important changes will include alterations in temperature, precipitation, extreme climatic events, soil conditions, groundwater and sea level.
Some processes of building decay will be accelerated or worsened by climate change, while others will be delayed. The impacts on individual processes can be described, but it is difficult to assess the overall risk posed by climate change using currently available data. Linking global changes to the response of material surfaces of archaeological and historic structures remains a challenge.
The research objectives of the NOAH'S ARK Project are:
- To determine the meteorological parameters and changes most critical to the built cultural heritage.
- To research, predict and describe the effects of climate change on Europe's built cultural heritage over the next 100 years.
- To develop mitigation and adaptation strategies for historic buildings, sites, monuments and materials that are likely to be worst affected by climate change effects and associated disasters.
- To disseminate information on climate change effects and the optimum adaptation strategies for adoption by Europe's cultural heritage managers through a conference and guidelines.
- To provide electronic information sources and tools, including web-based Climate Risk Maps and a Vulnerability Atlas for heritage managers to assess the threats of climate change in order to visualize the built heritage and cultural landscape under future climate scenarios and model the effects of different adaptation strategies.
- To advise policy-makers and legislators through the project's Policy Advisory Panel.
- The results will allow prediction of the impact of climate and pollution on cultural heritage and investigation of the response of historic materials and structures to future climate scenarios on a European scale. The outcome will allow the definition of guidelines and adaptation strategies, leading to possible changes in EC Directives.
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The Noah's Ark project took a strategic overview of the changing pressures on heritage rather than examining individual monuments. The results cover a wide geographical base and are presented as a vulnerability atlas for Europe and accompanying management guidelines.
The Atlas which underpins current EU policy on sustainable development, climate change and cultural heritage, is titled 'The Atlas of Climate Change Impact on European Cultural Heritage Scientific Analysis and Management Strategies', edited by C. Sabbioni, P. Brimblecombe and M. Cassar
This book aimed to fill the gap in studies on the effects of future climate variations on cultural heritage by presenting maps that link climate science to potential damage to material heritage. The following map typologies have been developed and are included in the atlas: Climate maps; Heritage climate maps; Damage maps; Risk maps and Thematic pages. The maps show the overall patterns of threats, while more detail about the scientific basis of the Noah's Ark project is found in the appendices. In addition, the atlas contains guidelines which provide a management context to the scientific findings. The guidelines and atlas have therefore been brought together in this publication. Its purpose is to communicate the science and its outputs to different user groups ranging from policy makers to heritage managers.
The Noah's Ark project has been the first initiative to view the long term need of science in relation to climate change and cultural heritage.
Professor Cristina Gutierrez-Cortines MEP and Professor Vittorio Prodi MEP have stated in their Foreword to the Atlas:
"The European Council's approval of a Joint Programming Initiative on Cultural Heritage, Climate Change and Security which has emerged from the Noah's Ark Project will ensure that the European effort that is necessary to develop our understanding and the resilience of cultural heritage in the 21st century will continue to provide policy makers with the evidence needed to protect cultural heritage for future generations."
Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science stated in her Preface to the Atlas:
"The pioneering project Noah's Ark, linking climate science and our changing environment to the potential damage to cultural heritage, has been widely acclaimed a success story. There has been worldwide interest and recognition of the achievements of this project, of which its research team can be truly proud. It certainly ranks among the FP7 projects most widely covered by the press. It has now developed this revealing Atlas, which provides a number of climate, damage and risk maps on various materials, enabling planners and heritage managers with broad strategic interests to view the likely changes in pressure on heritage at a European level. At this scale, it makes it possible to see emerging risks concerning heritage of the late 21st century and the way they will be spread across Europe. This broad vision allows long-term adaptive responses to climate change to tbe considered within the development of policy."
The Noah's Ark project was awarded the Europa Nostra Grand Prize for Research in 2009.