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Climate change 'could result in landslides' at Giant's Causeway

National Trust identifies the threats to its sites over the next 40 years


The Giant’s Causeway in North Antrim, Northern Ireland (Martin Keene/PA)

The Giant’s Causeway in North Antrim, Northern Ireland (Martin Keene/PA)


The Giant’s Causeway in North Antrim, Northern Ireland (Martin Keene/PA)

Northern Ireland's only World Heritage Site - the Giant's Causeway - is likely to experience a growing number of landslides as climate change accelerates, the National Trust has revealed.

The charity has drawn up a "game changer" climate change map plotting possible threats to its stately homes, landscapes and coastline.

They include Mount Stewart - the 19th-century house and garden in Co Down - where rising sea levels in Strangford Lough have contributed to coastal erosion. The car park has been relocated and a shelter-belt from incoming sea water created.

Meanwhile, coastal erosion and flooding will increase in Northern Ireland, potentially leading to more landslides around locations such as the Giant's Causeway.

The mapping tool outlines threats posed by climate impacts including extreme heat and humidity, landslides, high winds, and floods, and how they could change by 2060, to help the charity intervene to protect its sites.

The map is based on a "worst-case scenario" of a failure to drive down carbon emissions over the coming decades, but is intended to be a flagging tool to highlight potential hazards in the area of a heritage or countryside site.

It reveals that, without action on emissions, the number of National Trust sites in areas at the highest threat level from climate impacts could more than treble from 3,371 (5%) to 11,462 (17%) over the next 40 years.

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And the number of sites at high or medium risk of climate-related hazards could increase from 20,457, or 30% of sites, to 47,888, or 71%, by 2060.

Identifying areas at risk will help the National Trust pinpoint locations that could need interventions such as planting trees or restoring peat bogs to hold or slow the flow of water to prevent flooding, or more shade to protect areas at risk of high temperatures. The map will ensure that, under a commitment to plant or establish 20m trees to tackle climate change, trees go in the places they are needed most, the charity said.

The map shows high heat and humidity will hit the south-east of England, with a third of National Trust sites in the region experiencing at least 15 days above 30C (86F) a year, and storm damage, landslides and flooding will become common and more widespread, particularly in the north of England and Wales.

National Trust director for land and nature Harry Bowell said: "This map is a game changer in how we face the threat climate change poses to the places we care for. While the data draws on a worst-case scenario, the map paints a stark picture of what we have to prepare for.

"But by acting now, and working with nature, we can adapt to many of these risks."

The National Trust is working in partnership with government bodies to plot all cultural heritage sites in the UK, and has unveiled the map ahead of key UN climate talks in Glasgow to drive international action on climate change - which if successful would avoid the worst case scenario in the map.

The map plots the impacts of extreme heat and humidity, landslides, coastal erosion, shrinking and shifting ground due to wet and dry conditions known as "soil heave", and high winds, in 2020 and 2060.

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