A Quick Guide to Edinburgh's Climate Crisis

Get to know the Scottish city and the climate issues it's facing

By CyArk

World Map, 5 heritage sitesCyArk

Where is Edinburgh?

Where is Edinburgh?

Edinburgh has been the Scottish capital since the 15th century. Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1995, the Old and New Towns extend over 1.78 square miles and contain approximately 4,600 buildings of different types, built across a dramatic topographic setting.  

Edinburgh Castle from Calton HillCyArk

What is Edinburgh's biggest climate issue?

The biggest climate-related pressure to Edinburgh is extreme weather and increased rainfall. According to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) report on Scotland annual rainfall has increased by 13% since 1970.  

Ruins of a Scottish Castle in Edinburgh (2019-04) by CyArkCyArk

Why is this such an issue?

Old roof and rainwater management systems as well as drainage will become insufficient as existing systems will be unable to cope with the level of storm water associated with extreme and more frequent weather events. Additionally, if temperatures continue to rise, the rate of decay will increase further due to processes like the freeze-thaw cycle, the mobilisation of salts, and deposition of material.

Clouds over Edinburgh Castle (2019-04) by CyArkCyArk

How is this affecting Edinburgh's buildings?

The age of many of the buildings within the World Heritage site presents challenges in withstanding the effects of climate change. Most buildings are made from porous sandstones and increased wetting and drying increases the decay of these stones.  

Edinburgh Castle Above the Trees (2019-04) by CyArkCyArk

What is Edinburgh doing to combat climate change?

Scotland has one of the most ambitious climate change mitigation goals globally and has set a goal of a 42% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and an 80% reduction by 2050. In 2019 a 47% reduction was reached, and new targets were set for 75% by 2030, 90% by 2040; and net zero by 2045. 

interview EdinburghCyArk

How is Edinburgh integrating these goals into communities?

In 2016, twenty civic organisations, including The City of Edinburgh Council and Edinburgh World Heritage, developed the Edinburgh Adapts action plan which specifies concrete goals for dealing with climate change and making the city more resilient.  

Through a window in Edinburgh (2019-04) by CyArkCyArk

How is Edinburgh strengthening its historic environment?

As part of Scotland’s push for building resilience, Historic Environment Scotland set out to identify environmental hazards to their sites and found that many sites are exposed to risks like flooding, coastal erosion and slope instability that will be exacerbated by climate change.  

Castle Ruins in Edinburgh (2019-04) by CyArkCyArk

Through this work they have been able to develop new maintenance guides for Edinburgh historic building owners focused on what they can do to ensure they are adapting to climate change. 

Road toward Castle in Edinburgh (2019-04) by CyArkCyArk

What more needs to be done?

Combating climate change requires innovative action. 3D capture technology provides a tool for further understanding, evaluating, and producing conservation management plans. It can also be used to connect broader audiences with unique cultural heritage, demonstrating global diversity and shared understandings.   

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Find out more about ICOMOS' efforts to increase engagement of cultural heritage in climate action here.

Credits: Story

Peter A Cox, ICOMOS, Managing Director, Carrig Conservation International Limited, and President, ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on Energy, Sustainability and Climate Change.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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