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A critique By Ed Iglehart of the document
Andrew Kerr, University of Edinburgh, Simon Shackley, UMIST
Ronnie Milne, Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, Simon Allen, University of Edinburgh
(£10/print copy; 75 pages )


This Study was commissioned By the Scottish Office Central Research Unit to gain a clearer understanding of the implications of climate change in Scotland and to inform the development of a Scottish strategy to combat the impacts of climate change and introduce measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The method is clearly described as identifying stakeholders, reviewing existing information, interviewing experts and synthesising the expert knowledge into: "an analysis of the Scottish implications of climate change, together with an assessment of the implications for future work."

Critical summary:

The executive summary and chapters 1&2 are worthwhile for a general assessment of Scottish outlooks. The alarming expectation that, while all other sectors are expected to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) output, transport is expected to increase (note 1) does not elicit any comment from the authors. There is useful discussion of the levels of certainty for the projections of the UK Climate Impacts Programme (UKCIP) (note 2).

The remaining chapters contain little new and even less of particular substance or coherence. There is the usual urban bias associated with documents generated from the centre. Incentives (subsidies) are preferred over penalties (acceptance of cost). The Authors' main conclusions that more work is needed are unsurprising. That comprehension of the situation is at a very primitive stage is well demonstrated by the incoherence of the latter half.

The issues identified are potential direct impacts of climate changes within Scotland, the uncertain character of the changes, and of possible political & economic disruption due to climate change elsewhere. Indirect impacts include social, economic and political effects of measures taken to mitigate climate change, chiefly the need to reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses (GHG).

This clear recognition of the reality of climate change is encouraging at first sight. That increased flooding and storms will affect infrastructure for power generation & distribution, road, rail and water transport needs to be taken on board by planners. Water distribution for domestic and industrial use and waste water treatment & disposal are likely to be impacted. It is noted that in the public sector the existing financial structure militates against proactive approaches.

Housing stock and domestic appliances will need improving to increase energy efficiency, and reduce emissions. The transport sector is the only sector not expected to contribute to an overall reduction in GHG emissions. "Not surprisingly, road haulage firms are against further rises in fuel price and point to the danger of the relocation of firms to continental Europe." The business sector appears most worried by energy taxes and the coming climate change levy, "Of far greater concern to the expert respondents is the impact of measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions,..."

This shocking acceptance of the continued growth in the practice of moving people and goods great distances is a refusal to realise the central causative nature of this practice in the problem, and betrays the attitude that it is easier to trust in our ability to deal with the results than to consider changing the practices underlying them, especially where that might involve costs to trade. Government grants enabled "Safeway’s recent decision to move supermarket goods intended for the Highlands market by train from Glasgow to Inverness. It is reported that this project alone will save 10,000 lorry journeys each year."

"It is well understood that nothing so excites the glands of a free-market capitalist as the offer of a government subsidy."                        --Wendell Berry

Although "The management of Scotland’s natural environment resources is perhaps the sector most affected by climate impacts..," the paper has little of real substance regarding farming, forestry & fishing, much of the verbiage being reminiscent of tabloid horoscope pages. (note 3)

Priorities identified for future work are the "clear need for higher resolution climate data and impact studies in Scotland." and, "exploring the linkages between the main driving forces on each sector, the likely impacts of emissions strategies, and climate impacts." The need for better understanding is unquestionable, and the need to seek strategies which cut across the whole of policy is rightly identified. The respondents' implicit preference for reactive strategies over proactive is disappointing. It is clearly written indoors.


(Further development of these questions may be found at 946words.html and notes)
(1)         Table summarised from Introductory chapter.
Greenhouse Gas emissions % change expected as result of policy action 1990-2010
Energy Sector -18%
Business -14%
Transport +8%        (implies an underlying acceptance of continued growth of transport!)
Public Sector -10%
Agriculture, forestry and land use -15%
TOTAL CHANGE -10% of which CO2 -3%

(2)         Table summarised from Chapter 2
Temperature (deg C) and precipitation (%) changes expected under 4 UKCIP scenarios:
Scenario                 2010-2039                 2040-2069                 2070-2099
Low                         +0.4         +3%                +0.7         +3%                +0.9        +3%
Medium-low                 +0.8         +4%                +1.2         +5%                +1.5        +6%
Medium-high         +1.1         +6%                +1.6         +5%                +2.3        +16%
High                         +1.2         +7%                +1.9         +6%                +2.6        +17%        (That's pretty wet!)

(3)        A horoscopic view:

"The management of Scotland’s natural environment resources is perhaps the sector most affected by climate impacts..." (News indeed!) "However, a longer growing season could lead to more diverse and valuable crops....The effect of climate extremes on agricultural production has yet to be fully understood...Key sensitivities included temperature and precipitation effects on crop growth, disease, forage quality, and the working practices of farmers."
                (the practitioners of a "High and difficult art" (Wendell Berry))

On an optimistic note, "Urban authorities noted that the shift towards a ‘café culture’, was aided by warmer (albeit drier) weather. This spread in shared public space, through leisure activities such as eating and drinking, has positive ramifications for sustaining city centres." And, "Slightly higher precipitation without extreme variability, as suggested in the climate scenarios, will continue to ensure a plentiful supply of high quality water to Scotland. In addition, higher precipitation will also ensure the dilution of effluents through higher river flows....One long-term option for adapting to climate change with increased precipitation is to export water to England,..."

and, as the Seekers stare deeper into the cloudy crystal,

"5.21 Expanding forest areas and allowing agricultural land to revert to a more natural state causes carbon stocks to increase. Conversely, cultivating moorland will increase carbon dioxide emission. Recent increased use of land for forestry, agriculture and unmanaged and uncultivated urban development has been causing soil carbon to fall. However, agriculture changes, in the form of set aside policies and the shift away from intensive practices, is reversing this trend. Agriculture is likely to continue to be driven by a range of agri-environment and farming support policies. At present land use change and forestry is a net source of carbon in the UK, but is likely to become a net sink in the near future. Both forest expansion and change in agricultural practice are relatively more important in Scotland than the rest of the UK; under a devolved administration, any targets for greenhouse gas emissions will need to consider these processes."

Critique: Ed Iglehart 08/02/2000

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