Multi-determinant climate change risk assessment for cultural heritage 

Multi-determinant climate change risk assessment for cultural heritage 
UKCMB Web Admin

Multi-determinant climate change risk assessment for cultural heritage 

ARHC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership with Historic England (ref: 571553) 

PhD Researcher: Helen Thomas (UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage, Bartlett School of Environment, Energy and Resources and Historic England)

Supervisors: Dr Scott Allan Orr (UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage) and Dr Valentina Marincioni (UCL Institute of Environmental Design and Engineering)

Historic England Supervisors: Claire Hedley (Head of Climate Change) and Neil Guiden (Data and Analysis Manager)


Climate breakdown poses an unprecedented threat to our shared cultural heritage; this includes archaeological sites, the tangible fabric of buildings, collections and interiors, cultural landscapes, shipwrecks and underwater archaeology, historic battlefields, as well as intangible knowledge and traditional cultural practices. Understanding the risks that climate change poses is fundamental for properly informing future heritage policy and planning, supporting heritage practitioners, and preparing for the significant loss of the historic (and natural) environments.

Current methods for assessing climate risk to multiple heritage sites often focus on changing climatic hazards, with little sustained attention paid to cultural heritage significance, vulnerability of individual sites and materials, relative exposure, and potential adaptive responses and associated risks. These other risk determinants are all considered alongside hazards as part of the risk framework proposed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). How this framework can be adapted to heritage has yet to be fully explored, despite the numerous benefits that stem from aligning cultural heritage with global climate change science directions.

Project aims

The aim of this project is to develop a scalable multi-determinant framework for the risk climate change poses to the historic environment. The research objectives are: to adapt the IPCC risk framework to cultural heritage, creating heritage-specific definitions for the four risk determinants (hazard, vulnerability, exposure, and response); create an idealised scalable workflow for assessing climate change risk; assess the extent that records of the historic environment can be quantitatively incorporated into geospatial risk models; explore how risk can be aggregated for different spatial scales – from materials to sites to landscapes; and how risk and uncertainty can be visualised and communicated. At this scale, both in terms of data quantity (there are over a million heritage records in the case study) and geographic extent (all of England), quantitative geospatial methods are necessary. This development of a scalable methodology addresses the current imbalance towards site-specific risk assessment for designated heritage sites, instead analysing the total potential impacts of climate breakdown on the historic environment.

Contact for further information

Please contact Helen Thomas at if you have any queries about this research. You can also contact