We know our climate is already changing. We see it all around - record rainfall and flooding, droughts and wildfires, and worrying reports of shrinking ice shelves breaking up in Greenland. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has made clear that global average sea levels may rise by as much as 0.83m by 2100 - placing ever greater pressure on our coastal heritage and communities affected by coastal flooding.
Although the aggregate impacts of climate change in Scotland might be less severe than in many other parts of the world, the impacts for individuals, businesses and communities can be distressing and damaging and it is important that Scotland is well prepared and resilient to change.
That is why taking action on climate change is a very high priority for me and the Scottish Government. This means adapting to the impacts of climate change that we are already experiencing and will experience in the future, while also contributing to global efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions to prevent much greater change.
Preparing effectively for unavoidable climate change and reducing emissions are both essential actions if we are to ensure sustainable economic growth in Scotland - the overarching purpose of the Scottish Government - and to best protect our much valued ecosystems and species.
Climate change is not just an environmental issue - the impacts are also felt by businesses, communities and individuals. Our climate affects people's health, our road and rail services, water supplies, energy demands, tourism - the list is almost endless. Adapting to these changes is not something that governments can do alone. It depends on organisations, businesses, communities and individuals understanding the impacts of the changing climate and taking action to prepare for its effects.
Regrettably, given the impact of cumulative greenhouse gas emissions to date, we cannot eliminate all the risks we face from a changing climate. There is already considerable uncertainty regarding the extent of the impacts of climate change that is underway. Many of the factors likely to affect the degree of future climate change are, at this time, uncertain - for example the extent of future population growth and technological developments. But uncertainty is not an excuse for inaction. The challenge is to ensure that the actions we take to adapt are flexible and can be adjusted as our understanding improves.
I am grateful to all those who have engaged with us as we developed Scotland's first statutory Climate Change Adaptation Programme. Success will depend on everyone across Scotland accepting responsibility for their share of action and working in partnership. Clear leadership, advice and guidance from government is vital and I am committed to ensuring that existing and future Scottish Government policy, as far as possible, helps Scotland adapt to the effects of climate change to create a more resilient country for us to live and work in, and to help protect Scotland's much loved natural environment. This first Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme is a key part of that commitment.
Minister for Environment and Climate Change