Scotland's Changing Climate
Scotland's climate has already changed
Climate change is affecting Scotland now, with increases in seasonal temperatures, annual rainfall and sea level.
Average temperatures in Scotland have increased in line with global trends, with average annual temperatures now around 0.7°C higher than they were a century ago. The average temperature in the first decade of the twenty first century in Scotland was 0.9°C warmer than the average for the thirty year period 1961-1990 and it was warmer than any other decade since records began in 1910. Scotland's warmest year on record was 2014. In 2016 the average temperature was 0.8°C higher than the average for 1961-1990.
Scotland's annual rainfall has increased since the 1970s and is now 13% above the average for the early decades of the twentieth century.
The BBC's Landward programme on Scotland's National Coastal Change Assessment, broadcast from Montrose in April 2018, showed how significant coastal erosion is to some vulnerable places.
Case Study: Queensferry Crossing
The new Queensferry Crossing, the biggest infrastructure project in Scotland in a generation, has already in its first winter of operation proved its wind shielding makes it less susceptible to closure during high winds than the Forth Road Bridge. The new bridge is capable of carrying cars during winds gusting up to 100 miles per hour compared to 65 miles per hour on the older bridge. The Crossing's design features make it more resilient to severe weather conditions and a changing climate: the latest and most durable materials; cables that can be replaced with more ease as part of normal maintenance without closing the bridge; and a dehumidification system which reduces moisture and prevents corrosion.
Scotland's future climate
Further warming of the climate is expected. Many of the impacts of climate change are already "locked-in" to the Earth's climate and will lead to changes for decades to come, no matter how successful global measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions are. Severe changes in the climate this century cannot be ruled out.
Temperatures in Scotland are projected to continue increasing
over the next century, with hotter summers and milder winters. As
well as further temperature rises, we can expect increasingly
unpredictable and extreme weather, more and heavier rain days,
particularly in winter, and increasing flooding risks to homes and
The opening messages from the first Independent Assessment of the Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme by the Adaptation Sub-Committee of the Committee on Climate Change in 2016 highlights the risks and opportunities facing Scotland:
"Scotland's unique geography creates both resilience and vulnerabilities to the impacts of extreme weather and climate change. Scotland's iconic industries including timber and whisky, and its fisheries, rely on the abundance of climate-sensitive natural resources. The projected changes in weather patterns combined with sea level rise will test the nation's transport, communication, fuel and energy networks and challenge the delivery of health and social care services. There will also be opportunities for Scottish businesses investing in the products, services and new technologies that will be needed to adapt urban areas and grow rural economies in Scotland.
" Scotland needs to prepare for the impacts of climate change. The climate in Scotland has already warmed and become wetter and further changes are inevitable in the coming decades due to greenhouse gases from human activity already released to the atmosphere. The Paris Agreement should mark the turning point in the global action needed to limit further warming. Otherwise temperature increases of 4 °C or more by the end of the century would remain possible. Even two degrees of warming is associated with severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and the natural environment."
New Climate Change Plan, Climate Change Bill and Energy Strategy
2018 marked a huge step forward in Scotland's climate change ambition and action, with a new Energy Strategy in place, a new Climate Change Plan published, and a new Climate Change Bill introduced. The Climate Change Plan's commitments to increase our woodland creation target to 15,000 hectares per year by 2025, increase woodland cover from around 18% to 21% by 2032, restore 250,000 hectares of Scotland's degraded peatland by 2030, energy efficiency measures for housing, and continued efficiency improvements in Scottish agriculture, are all important contributors to both climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Case Study: Flooding – Scotland's biggest climate risk
Having invested over £300 million since 2008, in 2016 the Scottish Government committed to a further £420 million over a decade for local authority flood risk management measures.
The Selkirk Flood Protection Scheme was launched in February 2017. The scheme will protect approximately 600 properties (residential, business, agricultural, commercial and recreational) and critical infrastructure. The Scottish Government covers 80% of the estimated total cost of £31.4 million with the remainder being financed by Scottish Borders Council. The Selkirk Flood Protection Scheme won the Environmental Award at the Saltire Civil Engineering Awards last year. The Awards Panel was impressed with the multi-agency collaborative working which ensured multiple benefits were provided by the scheme, which has already protected properties from flooding on many occasions.
Elgin Flood Protection Scheme was launched in March 2017. The £86 million scheme is the largest civil engineering project to be undertaken in Moray. The Scottish Government covers 80% of the cost of the scheme. On 11 August 2014, whilst only partially completed, the scheme protected approximately 270 residential and 75 business premises from flooding, avoiding damages of an estimated £29 million.
Scottish Environment Protection Agency's comprehensive programme on flood forecasting and warning includes: community engagement with Safer Communities partners; a new digital and radio campaign; and "RiverTrack" flood alerting pilot projects. Floodline provides live flooding information and advice to more than 26,000 people on how to prepare for, or cope with, the impacts of flooding. A daily Flood Guidance Statement is issued to over 500 emergency responders in Scotland.
The UK Water Act 2014 contains powers allowing for the introduction of a flood reinsurance scheme, known as "Flood Re", which should ensure that flood insurance remains affordable to those who need it. Regulations came into force in 2015 and the scheme formally launched on 4 April 2016.
Tackling sewer flooding is a high priority for Scottish Water. In 2010-15 studies were completed in six cities including Glasgow. The new Storm Water Management Strategy, published in February 2018 recognises the need for more sustainable solutions to remove surface water from the sewers and manage it on the surface. Scottish Water has committed £170 million in 2015-21 to tackle sewer flooding.