Global Warming a Threat to Our Treasured Historic Sites; Experts Claim Some Well-Known Monuments Could Suffer Severe Damage as Climate Changes
Byline: Sarah Miloudi
SOME of Wales' most treasured historic sites will turn to ruin unless urgent action is taken to halt climate change, experts have warned in one of their starkest warnings yet on global warming.
Ancient buildings, including Restoration-era mansion Tredegar House and Cardiff City Hall, will be lost if the effects of rising temperatures and flash floods are allowed to go unchecked in Wales.
In an interview with the Western Mail, leading experts in the fields of construction and conservation warned that the impact of global warming could be "enormous", leading to unprecedented damage of renowned monuments, landscapes and archaeological sites.
They claimed that key structures, including the 17th century Newport house - regarded as one of the country's finest architectural examples - Swansea's Guild Hall, Cardiff's City Hall and the Dinas Dinlle coastline in Gwynedd, could all suffer irreparable damage due to climate change over the next century.
Dr Peter Wakelin, secretary of the Royal Commission, Aberystwyth, said: "Given the stark predictions for climate change, it is a risk that sites like Dinas Dinlle could erode further. It is already one third eroded and, after studies, the concern is that rising sea levels and more storms could make this worse." The Iron Age settlement covers an area as large as two commercial football pitches, but the site of special scientific interest gets a battering because of its unprotected north-westerly position on the Welsh coast.
A 2007 study showed that the rocky landscape has undergone one of the most dramatic rates of erosion ever recorded by the commission.
Dr Wakelin added: "Other smaller sites have shown erosion too, but Dinas Dinlle has shown one of the most rapid rates of decline.
"Undoubtedly, climate change is one of the biggest threats we face. It should be a priority to protect our landscapes like other aspects of our lives." According to the established archaeological recording agency, other vulnerable landscapes include promontory sites in Pembrokeshire - ancient military posts that capitalised on the landscape for defence.
Peat bogs, often found in Wales' uplands like Gwynedd and the Waun Fignen Felen in Swansea Valley, are also thought to be at risk. A report by the UK Climate Impact Programme discovered that by 2080, sea levels will have risen by 40cm, and by 2100, the frequency of storms will have increased 20-fold in some coastal towns. It also expects rainfall to increase by 30%, and said that downpours have already increased by around 50% over the past five decades.
Dr Wakelin said he feared that the changeable temperatures could cause bogs like the one in Swansea to disappear, allowing important artefacts to drift away as well.
He added: "Bogs are dependent on damp conditions, but these could dry out in the summer and be washed away in wetter winter months. This has to be mitigated.
"Bogs are also important in terms of the carbon dioxide they hold. If these bogs disappear, there will be more carbon in Wales." Trevor Francis, regarded as a Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors' specialist in housing and conservation, also warned that as well as Wales' historic landscapes facing the potential threat of disappearance, iconic city structures could be wiped off the map if climate change is left to continue at its current rate.
Mr Francis said: "Climate change could have an enormous impact, things like sea level rises and our Victorian drainage systems not being able to cope will see the effects. We will also see more temperate conditions - wetter winters and drier summers -
buildings will be dowsed one minute and drying the next.
"This can bring termites from Africa which can affect structures' timber. We have already started to see these in some parts. About 10 years ago they were found in Cornwall." The lecturer at Neath Port Talbot College identified a host of ancient structures in the Welsh capital and nearby cities, that could be damaged by the changing environment. …