Sea Levels To Rise
On Scottish Islands
Environment News Service
31 July, 2003
change will force temperatures up and precipitation down across the
Scottish islands over the next 100 years, according to new research
published today. While the summers will be drier, the winters will be
wetter says the report prepared for the British-Irish Council using
the superfast computers at the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction
and Research, part of the UK Meteorological office.
could decrease by up to 89 percent, the report predicts, and sea levels
are expected to rise up to 69 centimeters (27 inches). Scotland's island
villages may be the first to suffer consequences of climate change because
their survival is so dependent upon the sea.
Map of the northern UK showing the Scottish islands (Photo courtesy
By the year 2100, annual average temperatures will increase across the
Western Isles, the Orkney Islands and the Shetland Isles says the report,
which is based on four contrasting scenarios of future greenhouse gas
emissions derived from the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
The scenarios were produced by a team led by Dr. Geoff Jenkins at the
Hadley Centre for Climate Change Prediction. The authors attach a "relatively
high degree of confidence" to the main trends described in the
study. But they admit to scientific uncertainties associated with the
climate change scenarios, because they cannot know how levels of greenhouse
gas emissions will change in the future.
For the medium-high
scenario of future emissions, annual temperatures could rise by 1.8
degrees Celsius (3.24 degrees Fahrenheit) for the Western Isles, two
degrees C (3.6 degrees F) for the Orkney Islands, and 2.2 degrees C
(3.96 degrees F) for the Shetland Isles.
for Environment and Rural Development Allan Wilson said, "I am
delighted that the continued cooperation of the administrations of the
British-Irish Council has resulted in publication of these invaluable
climate change scenarios. Climate change is a matter of concern for
us all and it is vital we are in a position to tackle its most serious
Council was created from the Good Friday Agreement, and was formally
established when the British-Irish Agreement came into force in December
1999. The purpose of the council is to promote the harmonious and mutually
beneficial development of relationships among the peoples of Ireland
and the United Kingdom, Scotland and Wales, Jersey, Guernsey and the
Isle of Man.
Wilson said, "We
are committed to reducing the impact of climate change, by reducing
emissions of greenhouse gases through the implementation of our Scottish
Climate Change Programme, but some impacts of climate change are now
unavoidable and preparation and adaptation are essential."
Dixon, head of policy for the conservation organization WWF Scotland,
said, "Anyone living in the Western Isles, Orkney or Shetland should
take this report very seriously. It begins to tell us whether crofting,
tourism and rare species have a future there. It even begins to answer
the question of whether life itself will be tenable in the Scottish
Islands in 100 years time. "
"Perhaps most alarmingly," said Dixon, "the report admits
that we do not understand much about the Gulf Stream and the related
ocean currents that bring warm water to the west coast of Scotland,
but it is predicted to lose 20 percent of its strength over the next
The frequency and
severity of storms will increase, the report predicts, threatening coastal
communities and wildlife habitats with flooding. More unpredictable
weather could add nearly half a meter, or about 20 inches, to high tide
levels in the worst storms.
Dixon said the report
challenges Scotland to do more to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
"Only last week the Scottish Executive had to admit that Scotland
has reduced emissions of greenhouse gases less than half as quickly
as the UK average," he said. "Ministers should start by setting
a climate change target for Scotland and outlining what needs to be
done by each sector - public, business, domestic, transport, agriculture."
Wilson said, "This report will assist decision makers, particularly
those who live and work on the Scottish islands, to meet the challenges
posed by climate change by informing long term decisions affected by
An electronic version
of the report, with all the underlying data, is available from the British-Irish
Council website at: