Scotland generally has cool summers, mild winters and rain falls throughout the year. Changes in our climate over the next few decades are unavoidable because of the greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere.
When viewed over long-term averages, we expect the UK to experience more milder wetter winters and more hotter drier summers in the future. These changes in climate and their effect on our weather will have major implications for our way of life.
- The world's climate is changing. Since the late 1800s, the atmosphere and ocean have warmed, amounts of snow and ice have diminished, the sea level has risen, and concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have increased.
- People are causing this rapid change in climate mainly due to greenhouse gas emissions: water vapour (H2O); carbon dioxide (CO2); nitrous oxide (N2O); methane (CH4) and ozone (O3). These are formed as a result of natural and human activities. There are also a number of entirely human-made greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, such as sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and perfluorocarbons (PFCs).
Greenhouse effect - Met Office - State of the UK climate
- While the recent rapid change in climate can be attributed to human activities, the climate has also changed throughout geological time, well before people were around. This is known as natural climate variability and is due to a number of factors, including:
- Scotland's climate is already changing. The climate will continue to change in the future and this will present a wide range of threats and opportunities to the environment, infrastructure, economy and people of Scotland.
- The key climate change risks and opportunities for Scotland, as set out the in UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017: Evidence Report – Summary for Scotland, include:
- Natural Environment & Natural Assets – Climate change poses risks to Scotland’s soils, natural carbon stores, agriculture, wildlife and coastal habitats and seas. More action is needed to manage these risks. More evidence is also needed to fully characterise other climate change risks and opportunities that are likely to be important for Scotland, including changes in agricultural and forestry productivity and land suitability, as well as impacts on freshwater and marine ecosystems.
- Infrastructure - Infrastructure in Scotland is exposed to range of climate hazards. Impacts on some assets have the potential to cascade on to others as part of interdependent networks. Flooding poses the greatest long-term risk to infrastructure performance from climate change, but the growing risks from heat, water scarcity and slope instability caused by severe weather could be significant.
- People and the Built Environment - there are potential health benefits from warmer winters in Scotland, but more action is needed to manage current risks to people from cold temperatures through addressing fuel poverty.
- Business and Industry - Flooding and extreme weather events which damage assets and disrupt business operations pose the greatest risk to Scottish businesses now and in the future. This could be compounded by a lack of adaptive capacity. New regulations or other government intervention made necessary by climate change also poses an indirect risk to businesses
- International Dimensions - Climate change will impact upon water security, agricultural production and economic resources around the world. These impacts can compound vulnerability in other countries, which can in turn exacerbate risks from conflict, migration, and humanitarian crises. The main risks arising for the UK from climate change overseas are through impacts on the food system, economic interests abroad, and increased demand for humanitarian aid.
The infographic explores the difference between weather and climate, what drives our climate and how our climate is changing - View the full infographic at the Met Office - What is climate change?
Scotland’s climate trends
Scotland's climate trends handbook (published in 2014) describes the changes in weather patterns experienced in Scotland over the last century.
View Scotland’s climate trends data below.
Scotland’s climate projections
The UK Climate Change Projections (UKCP09) provide the latest indications of the likely scenarios for Scotland's projected climate,
The interactive graph below shows UKCP09 data specifically for Scotland (the data is up to date as of September 2012). Choose to display and use projections over land for different parameters:
- Emissions scenarios (low, medium, high)
- Time periods (7 overlapping 30-year periods from 2010-2039 to 2070-2099)
- Locations 925km square, average over a region or river basin catchment area)
- Averaging periods (month, season, annual)
- Climate variable
- Change or absolute value
Scottish greenhouse gas emissions 2014
Official statistics publication (June 2016) containing the results of the Scottish greenhouse gas inventory for 1990-2014. A key tool for understanding the origins and magnitudes of the emissions and the assessment of policies designed to control or reduce emissions.
Chart B1. Sources of Scottish Greenhouse Gas Emissions, 2014. Values in MtCO2e - The Scottish Government
Global climate change
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report Climate Change 2013: The physical science basis confirms that since the late 19th century the atmosphere and ocean have warmed, amounts of snow and ice have diminished, the sea level has risen, and concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have increased.
Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since.
ClimateXChange have produced three short briefs that summarise the reports on:
NASA conducts a program of breakthrough research on climate science. It runs programs to obtain and convert data from defense department and NOAA satellites as well as from certain European, Japanese and Russian satellites. NASA also sponsors field experiments to provide "ground truth" data to check space instrument performance and to develop new measurement.
Taking a global perspective on Earth's climate - NASA Global Climate Change: Vital signs of the plant
NASA has more than a dozen Earth science spacecraft/instruments in orbit studying all aspects of the Earth system (oceans, land, atmosphere, biosphere, cryosphere), with several more planned for launch in the next few years.
What are we doing?
With 197 Parties, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has near universal membership and is the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol has been ratified by 192 of the UNFCCC Parties. The ultimate objective of both treaties is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system.
The Second Report on Proposals and Policies 2013 to 2027 sets out how Scotland can deliver statutory annual targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (set through the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009).
- A UK wide Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) is published every 5 years describes, and where possible quantifies, the impacts from climate change
- Scotland’s first statutory Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme was published on 29 May 2014. The Programme addresses the impacts identified for Scotland in the CCRA.
- The Programme follows on from the publication in 2009 of Scotland's Climate Change Adaptation Framework.
- The Government has set ambitious targets to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. To help ensure the delivery of the percentage targets, the Scottish Ministers must set annual targets covering the period 2010-2050 in secondary legislation at least 12 years in advance.
- A range of advice reports have been published by the UK Committee on Climate Change:
- 2010-2022 Targets – Scotland’s path to a low carbon economy (February 2010)
- 2023-2027 Targets – Advice to Scottish Government
- 2028-2027 Targets – Scottish Emission targets – the high ambition pathway towards a low carbon economy (March 2016)
- Annual Targets for 2010-2022 and 2023-2027 have been set in secondary legislation under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009
- Ministers have published 2 reports setting out proposals and policies for meeting the targets (March 2011, and June 2013)
Scotland’s soils contain large amounts of organic matter. It is important to manage soils carefully to ensure the carbon stays in the soils and does not escape into the atmosphere as greenhouse gases. View the distribution of carbon and peatland classes across the whole of Scotland on Scotland’s soils website.
Scottish Government have developed a tool to calculate the carbon savings from wind farms on Scottish peatlands.
Scotland's National Peatland Plan (2015) - highlights the major contribution peatlands make to Scotland. Peatlands occur throughout the country, with many bogs and fen. As stores of carbon they are supremely important in helping to tackle climate change. See Scottish Natural Heritage's website for further information on Action for Peatlands - including videos and guidance.
Farming for a better climate – provides practical support to benefit the farm and help reduce our impact on the climate. Taking action as a sector, both to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to a changing climate, will secure farm viability for future generations.
Policy and legislation
The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 makes a commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050 with an interim target of a 42% cut by 2020 . The Act sets a framework for action in Scotland to reduce emissions as well as adapt to a changing climate.
For a further information on all Scottish primary and secondary climate change legislation – Climate change legislation
SEPA regulates a wide range of industries and organisations whose activities generate emissions of greenhouse gases. SEPA is Scotland’s national flood forecasting, flood warning and strategic flood risk management authority.
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