Wouldn’t a little global warming do us the world of good in cold, damp Scotland? The answer is no; as the effects of climate change accelerate, we can expect an increase in rainfall and extreme weather events. Not quite the Mediterranean climate some of us were hoping for. So how is climate change affecting Scotland, and has it already had an effect on our biggest cities? The UK Climate Impacts Programme has reported a 67-69% rise in rainfall since 1961 in the North and West and 35% in the East, a significant increase which has been linked with a rise in flood and landslide frequency. Combined with rising sea levels, the potential for storm surges and large-scale flooding is also increasing. Glasgow City Council is currently anticipating an increase in the magnitude of heavy rainfall events by 15-20% in the coming decades, a change which is likely to cause serious social and economic problems.
Flooding maps show that areas of Glasgow, particularly the East End, are already vulnerable and would likely become more dangerous for residents as flood risk increases. Mitigation strategies such as the Sustainable Urban Drainage Scheme have been implemented in order to reduce flood risk. The effects of climate change have also caused concern in Edinburgh, where coastal flooding has not previously presented a serious problem for the city. Rising sea levels and increased precipitation have resulted in a demand for a flood risk strategy in order to combat the risk of flooding posed by the effects of climate change. As the effects of climate change cause increasing concern in Edinburgh, the city has launched Edinburgh Adapts, an action plan designed to ensure the city’s preparedness and contribution to climate change mitigation. In addition to this, temperatures across Scotland have increased by up to 1⁰C in the last 100 years, and the Met Office has reported that 2014 was the hottest year in the past 100. This is of particular concern as the number of heatwaves in Scotland is also up by 6 days, a trend which could prove to be dangerous.
The 2003 summer heatwave in the UK resulted in 2000 deaths and could be commonplace in the coming decades. Whilst this rise in temperature has lengthened the Scottish growing season for many Scottish farmers by up to 5 weeks, the decrease in summer rainfall is posing serious issues for important Scottish economic earners such as the whisky industry. Furthermore, the reduction of frost and snow is causing concern for the Scottish winter skiing industry, as the number of days with snowfall has fallen by 32% in the last 40 years. As such, the effects of climate change on Scotland are not limited to certain areas. Whilst some regions may experience certain changes more than others, it is important to remember that we will all feel the effects.