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Climate Change: Scottish Implications Scoping Study - Research Findings

DescriptionTo improve the understanding of the implications of climate change in Scotland, to inform policy responses and help to identify measures to reduce greenhouse gap emissions.
ISBN
Official Print Publication Date
Website Publication DateDecember 03, 1999
Environment Group Research Programme Research Findings No. 5
1999Climate Change:Scottish Implications Scoping Study

Centre for The Study of Environmental Change and Sustainability, University of Edinburgh, UMIST, ITE

Climate Change is caused by the emission of greenhouse gases. It has wide ranging implications for people, the economy and the natural and built environment in Scotland. Under the International Kyoto Protocol and European Union agreements, by 2008-2012 the UK must reduce its 1990 baseline emission of six greenhouse gases by 12.5%. The Scottish Executive are committed to making a full contribution.

This Study was commissioned to improve the understanding of the implications of climate change in Scotland. The research will also inform the policy response to the impacts of climate change, and help to identify measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland.

Main Findings

  • Climate change will have direct and indirect impacts in Scotland. Over the next century, it is likely that Scotland will become warmer, sea levels will rise, rainfall and severe gales will increase, and there will be an increased risk of flooding. There will be less snow lie during winter, and marine and freshwater fisheries may be affected by changing ocean circulation.
  • Climate change impacts present an important business risk to the transport sector. Increased risk of flooding, storms and sea level rise will have serious detrimental impacts on land transport and marine operations. The provision of services across Scotland could also be affected. The changing climate will have an adverse effect on some business and domestic dwellings.
  • In relation to public health, the secondary effects of climate change may result in increased air pollution and a higher incidence of respiratory diseases associated with damp. However, positive impacts from warmer temperatures may include a reduction in cold-related deaths, and the feel-good factor associated with a warmer climate.
  • The options for reducing emissions from the energy supply sector depend on the changing mix of fuel used in generation, regulation of emissions from and efficiencies of power stations, and further development of energy services for customers. The significance of renewable energy sources is likely to increase. Options to reduce emissions from the domestic sector include tackling poor thermal efficiency of housing and improving energy efficiency standards.
  • Increasing forest cover in Scotland could help meet reduction targets through increased growth rates and the use of afforestation as part of an emissions mitigation strategy. In the agricultural sector more diverse and valuable crops may be grown in future as a result of climate change.
  • Climate Change has policy implications for national and local Government, and more information on the national and regional impacts of climate change in Scotland is required.

Climate Change Issues in Scotland

Climate change will have direct and indirect impacts: direct impacts through changes in the physical environment or in the cost of adapting to change, and indirect impacts involving changes in society due to reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases. Over the next century, it is likely that:

  • Scotland will become warmer. Average temperatures are likely to rise by between 1.2 to 2.6oC, with relatively more warming in winter than summer.
  • Annual precipitation is likely to increase by between 5 and 20 per cent by the end of the next century, with autumn and winter seeing the biggest increases. In contrast, spring rainfall amounts will be lower and there will be little change in summer.
  • The intensity of rainfall events is likely to increase, leading to increased risk of flooding.
  • There may be an increase in the frequency of severe gales, and sea levels are expected to rise.

As well as these national climate impacts, Scotland will be affected by the impact of climate change on other countries. This international dimension to climate change provides both business opportunities and potential risks for Scotland.

Strategies to minimise human-induced climate change

Emissions of greenhouse gases are the prime human influence on the climate and must be reduced to minimise human-induced climate change. Under the International Kyoto Protocol and European Union agreements, by 2008-2012 the UK must reduce its baseline emissions of six greenhouse gases by 12.5%. In addition, the UK Government has set a domestic target to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 20% beneath the 1990 baseline by 2010. Actions to attain the Kyoto Protocol target must be equitably spread across the UK. The devolution legislation includes powers that could be used to ensure that the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland contribute to the UK's target through action in policy areas for which they are responsible. Other possible policy measures include taxation, emissions trading, regulations of emissions and financial incentives.

Implications of Climate Change in Scotland

Energy

The market is the driving force in the energy sector, coupled with tight regulation to protect the public interest. Climate change is one of many uncertainties in this fast changing industry.

Strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions - beginning with the fuel duty escalator and the climate change levy in 2001 - are likely to have a more significant effect in Scotland than any direct impact of climate change. The options for reducing emissions from the energy supply sector depend on the changing mix of fuel used in generation, regulating emissions from and efficiencies of power stations, and the further development of energy services for customers

As the climate changes, this sector becomes vulnerable to sea level rise at coastal installations and to storm damage and flooding associated with intense precipitation events. The planning horizon in the industry is well over 20 years (and more for nuclear power stations), which suggests that the sector is in a good position to develop adaptive strategies as better information on climate impacts becomes available.

Transport

The key forces for change in the transport sector are increasing the effectiveness of transport systems and reducing congestion and air pollution. These goals have considerable overlap with the needs of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate change impacts also present an important business risk to the transport sector. In particular, the increased risk of flooding and storms will have serious detrimental impacts for land transport, while storms and, to a lesser extent, sea-level rise will impact on marine operations. Improved information on the effect of climate change on storm frequency is vital for the sector. The design of transport infrastructure has a long lead-time, which suggests that information on future climate change impacts should be an important element of the planning process.

Domestic

Numerous factors such as poor housing stock, fuel poverty, public health, and energy efficiency will drive change in the domestic sector. The means of reducing emissions from the domestic sector include tackling poor thermal efficiency of housing and reducing energy use by enforcing energy efficiency standards for domestic appliances. Such goals are similar to those seeking to improve the quality of housing stock and minimising problems such as fuel poverty.

The changing climate will have an adverse effect on some dwellings, particularly if exposed to increased driving rain, storminess, or flooding. Future planning of housing would beneficially include an assessment of the risks of climate impacts. There is a need for better information about the climate-related risks relating to different geographical zones.

Public Services

The key drivers in the public services concern the provision of a diverse range of services to the population under the competing demands of expectation and tight budgets. Organisations such as the Water Authorities operate under tight European and UK regulation and their reliance on surface water, and the time-scale needed for changes to infrastructure ensure that climate change is an important issue. The major detrimental impacts of climate change are likely to be associated with flooding and storms, which disrupt the provision of services. Positive impacts from warmer temperatures may include increased use of shared public space such as parks, which is recognised as being important for sustainable urban centres.

In relation to public health, secondary effects of climate change may result in increased air pollution and a higher incidence of respiratory diseases associated with damp. Food poisoning and insect-borne diseases may also increase. However, positive impacts from warmer temperatures may include a reduction in cold-related deaths; and the feel-good factor associated with a warmer climate.

Business

The vulnerability of business to climate change impacts depends on the specific operation: the service industry, which contributes nearly two thirds of Scottish GDP is, in general, less sensitive than other businesses to direct impacts of climate change. The important issues are impacts of temperature, rainfall and wind upon buildings. Indirectly, working conditions could be affected, resulting in demand for more air conditioning. Climate change may also change structures of market demand for food and drink. The tourism and sports industry will be affected: winter sports, particularly the ski industry, which is economically marginal, are most at risk from winter warming.

The impact of climate mitigation measures - such as the forthcoming climate change levy ñ was of far greater concern to the study respondents. Respondents saw other possible measures - such as carbon trading schemes - as being more in accord with the entrepreneurial spirit of commerce, though complications with implementation remain. Many respondents in the study recommended that individual businesses should explore available climate scenario information and take appropriate steps to manage their response.

Agriculture, forestry and fisheries

The management of Scotland's natural resources is the sector most affected by climate change issues. Land use plays an essential role in greenhouse gas emissions from the natural environment. Changed agricultural practices, such as increasing Set Aside land or further afforestation, are relatively more important for greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland than in the UK as a whole. In the future more diverse and valuable crops may be grown as a result of climate change. In relation to the fishing industry, the marine fisheries of the North Sea and North Atlantic, and the and freshwater salmon and sea-trout fisheries of Scotland's rivers may be affected. There is compelling evidence that recent declines in both migratory salmon and some marine species may be linked to fundamental changes in ocean circulation around Scotland.

Policy Implications

Climate Change has policy implications for national and local Government, and this research will support the work of local and national Government in planning ahead to deal with the impacts of climate change, and the possible introduction of mitigation measures in Scotland. In addition, research is already underway to develop temperature indices for Scotland and Northern Ireland, and research will be commissioned shortly to consider the impact of climate change on in the incidence of flooding in Scotland.

This research suggests that other key areas for future research are:

  • The creation of a 'meta-data' depository, which identifies climate data held by different organisations.
  • Compilation of further data of changing patterns of precipitation and snowfall across Scotland.
  • A full analysis of the relative impact of climate change on different regions of Scotland.
  • A comparison of expected climate impacts and planned mitigation and adaptation strategies with similar countries, such as Norway, Sweden and Ireland.
  • Public perceptions of climate change issues.
  • The effect of land use strategies, such as afforestation, on Scotland's greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Links between likely future changes in different sectors and the requirements of the sector to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Business opportunities associated with climate change issues.

About the Study

The research was conducted between November 1998 and July 1999 by Dr Andrew Kerr, Dr Simon Shackley, Dr Ronnie Milne and Dr Simon Allen from The University of Edinburgh, UMIST and ITE. The study consisted of a literature and policy review, and consultation with experts to assess the quality and coverage of predicted impacts and the mitigation of climate change within their sector. A total of 74 experts were consulted representing six key sectors affected by climate change: energy; transport, domestic; public services; business; and agriculture, forestry and fisheries.

'Climate Change: Scottish Implications Scoping Study', the research report summarised in this Research Findings, is available priced £10.00. Cheques should be made payable to The Stationery Office and addressed to:

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Further copies of this Research Findings may be obtained from:

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Edinburgh EH6 6QQ
Tel: 0131-244 7560

or from the publications section of the Scottish Executive Website: www.scotland.gov.uk

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