IMC 2008: Sessions

Session 1227: Lunchtime Lecture: Climate Change and the Historic Environment

Wednesday 9 July 2008, 13.15-14.00

Moderator/Chair:Richard Morris, Institute for Medieval Studies, University of Leeds / School of Music, Humanities & Media, University of Huddersfield
Speaker:Sebastian Payne, English Heritage, London

Climate change and extremes of weather are nothing new: earlier records are full of accounts of storms and floods, and the deaths and crop failures they caused, and it has been argued that the Vikings had to abandon Greenland because of climate change. An understanding of past climate and past weather extremes, and their effects on people, helps us to put modern conditions and threats into a longer perspective.

This talk views climate change within this longer perspective, and, in the context of threats to historic buildings, sites and the historic environment, suggests ways in which the past can inform current conservation and management. It suggests that some common perceptions are mistaken – storm frequency in England and peak flows of the Thames, for instance, show no long-term increase over the past century. It suggests that some of the things we blame on climate change probably have other causes.

Sebastian Payne is Chief Scientist at English Heritage, the Government’s principal advisor on the historic environment in England, which works to conserve and enhance the historic environment, broaden public access to the heritage, and increase people‚Äôs understanding of the past.