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Effect on the historic environment

Rising sea levels, more rainfall, changes in vegetation patterns and new pests threaten Scotland’s heritage.

Climate change is projected to cause Scotland to become warmer and wetter in winter and hotter and drier in summer. The impacts on the historic environment could be devastating.

Rising sea levels and increased storm events endanger historic landscapes, structures, buildings and archaeology. More frequent periods of intense rainfall will cause flooding and erosion to our most treasured historic buildings and heritage sites.

Changes in vegetation patterns will threaten the visibility and integrity of archaeological remains and historic landscapes and endanger our biodiversity. The spread of new pests may harm our historic buildings, collections and designed landscapes.

Risks to landscapes

Archaeology and coastal landscapes are vulnerable to risks including:

  • coastal erosion
  • rises in sea level
  • flooding 
  • storminess

Some of Scotland’s most special sites are most at risk – for example, Skara Brae in Orkney. 

Threats to traditional buildings

More rainfall will mean that traditional buildings will be wetter for longer periods of time.

This may result in:

  • water penetrating masonry
  • increased risk of dampness
  • faster decay of stonework
  • condensation
  • faster mould growth
  • ground instability 
  • corrosion of metals
  • structural collapse

It will be vitally important that buildings are well maintained and managed to ensure that they can withstand increased rainfall and weathering. All measures to improve energy efficiency in traditional buildings should be considered carefully.  

Find out about maintenance of traditional buildings.

Learn about maintenance and saving energy.

Weather projections

Average annual precipitation – rain, sleet and snow – has increased by 27% in Scotland since the early 1960s. Over the same period, winter precipitation has increased by more than 70% in parts of northern Scotland.

Left unchecked, these changes are likely to continue and intensify throughout the 21st century. This will speed up the damage to Scotland’s environment and infrastructure, with significant costs for the economy and society.


Climate Change Team
Historic Environment Scotland
Longmore House
Salisbury Place

Telephone: 0131 668 8577
Email: climatechange@hes.scot