Risks of Climate Change to the
Public Sector in Scotland
IPCC Third Assessment Report presents an increasing body of
show a warming world and changes in global and regional climate systems. It also predicts
changes in the climate in future years.
of the policy response to this evidence has focused on mitigation, to
the threat of future warming and climate change.
However, given historic and current emissions we are
committed to some level of future climate change. Adaptation moves
analysis of climate change effects, and focuses on risks and
where action needs to be taken to adapt to climate change in the short,
purpose of this research project has been:
- To consider the extent of risk of
climate change to five public sector bodies in Scotland:
- Scottish Environment Protection
- Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).
- Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS).
- Scottish Water (SW).
- VisitScotland (VS).
- To make recommendations for
adaptation strategies for each organisation.
- To assist the organisations to put
in place appropriate management responses.
main focus has been to consider what the public sector must do to adapt
project objectives were:
- To identify key climate change
impacts for each organisation, using the UKCIP02 scenarios and a review
organisation’s policy and operational responsibilities.
- To undertake a risk assessment for
identified impacts (including threats and adaptation opportunities
climate change), and to quantify these risks as appropriate.
- To devise, using a participative
approach, adaptation management strategies for each of the risks
- To help each organisation to put in
place the capacity to further develop and implement adaptation
beyond the life of this project.
- To recommend further research on
climate change adaptation.
study was undertaken by a multi-disciplinary
team led by AEA Technology Environment in collaboration with
Wallingford, Risk Solutions, and the Environmental Change Unit (Oxford
University). The approach was:
- The climate change scenarios and the
impacts literature were reviewed to identify the cross-sectoral risks
adaptation opportunities of future climate change in Scotland. These were then considered
for each of the
- Using interviews, the risks and
adaptation opportunities were assessed in detail for each organisation,
prioritised using a simple risk analysis to assess the probability and
consequences of effects. In
the study team investigated the activities and responsibilities of each
individual organisations and assessed the current risk management
place, to help design appropriate responses.
- Using participative
a set of potential adaptation responses was identified for the priority
for each organisation, and recommendations made on how these could be
- Finally, the study looked at the
synergies and conflicts between the risks and plans for the five
sector organisations, and made a number of recommendations.
UKCIP02 Scenarios show important climatic changes for Scotland in
years. There is a
growing trend of
warmer, wetter, and cloudier winters, and warmer, drier summers,
more extreme weather (such as heavy
rainfall events). For
example, under the high scenario, Scotland could be (on
average) 2.5oC to 4oC
warmer than present by 2080, with
winter precipitation increasing by up to 35% in the south, east and
and summer precipitation decreasing by up to 50% in the south, central
changes predicted in the scenarios present significant risks for all
organisations, for example:
- For SEPA,
there are important risks over its responsibility to issue flood
its remit to improve water quality.
- For SNH,
there are concerns regarding loss of species and habitats where there
adaptation potential and high vulnerability.
- For the
Forestry Commission, the long rotation lengths of most forest
(typically 50 to over 100 years), and the impact of climate on
clearly be important.
Scottish Water, there will be significant implications from the changes
average rainfall and heavy rainfall events – these are
given the large infrastructure and long lifetimes in the water supply
VisitScotland, there will be potential downsides, for example through
decline in Scottish skiing, but there will also be potential adaptation
opportunities for tourism growth in Scotland.
and adaptation opportunities have been prioritised for each
adaptation options have been drawn up – separating out those
strategic, operational and functional activities.
The analysis has identified those options that require
action (or at least early consideration of potential options).
tables in the report provide indicative adaptation options that would
address the priority risks and adaptation opportunities identified. In
cases these options represent additions or alterations to existing
operations or research agendas, rather than entirely new initiatives.
number of important areas, these suggestions could be started
at low cost. Many of the adaptation options may also carry ancillary
from strengthening resilience to current weather variability, to
awareness of environmental matters in general, to improving monitoring
decision-making procedures, and enhancing staff morale.
number of areas/options have links between the
already have existing partnerships across a number of areas. However, the consideration
adaptation opportunities and adaptation plans has highlighted a number
where potential synergies or conflicts exist, and partnerships could be
important issues identified relate to:
- The potential opportunities for
collaborative actions to raise awareness, train staff and build
- The need for consideration of
integrated flood warning, planning, management and defence (SEPA, SW,
- Enforcing regulations under the
Water Framework Directive, particularly regarding abstraction, and also
regarding water quality (SEPA and SW).
- The need to discuss the potential
role of forestry in mitigation (all, but led by FCS).
- The targets for tourism growth in
Scotland and the development of sustainable tourism (VS and all).
- The opportunity to build adaptation
thinking into Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEPA and all).
- The high vulnerability of ecosystems
and the need to consider a precautionary approach (SNH and all).
need to co-ordinate the approach for defining the appropriate level of
adaptation in Scotland and the assessment framework for detailed
plans (Scottish Executive and all).
costs of adapting to reduce climate risks (all).
study has made a number of suggestions and recommendations:
five organisations should ensure that climate change is added to the
risk register (at the start of the study, only one organisation had
done this –
one other has also done so during the time frame of the project). Further to this, all
organisations should consider incorporating climate change in planning
facilities and in all corporate plans/ risk management strategies.
- All five organisations should
initially focus on raising awareness of climate change and adaptation
first stage in building adaptive capacity, both within its organisation
with external stakeholders. There
the potential for collaborative action between organisations to achieve
- Following this, each organisation
should progress the analysis of the adaptation options identified for
should focus on no
(justified by current
climate conditions), followed by low-regrets options (made
climate change but at minimal cost).
They could also begin a more in-depth analysis in
relation to other
possible adaptation actions, to investigate the costs and benefits of
taking into account the uncertainties. This is particularly important
longer time frames are involved, or higher costs implied. This should be developed
by the Scottish Executive on adaptation policy for Scotland.
- There is a need to for the five
organisations to work together to realise the mutual
benefits, to reduce
conflicts and to enhance synergies.
This may also involve Scottish organisations in other
strongly recommend a
joint workshop to discuss the issues, synergies and conflicts to
parallel to this, there is a need for the Scottish Executive to:
a policy framework for adaptation, defining what successful adaptation
to avoid mal-adaptation).
and coordinate research on impacts, adaptation opportunities and
the priority given to adaptation.
methods and tools for adaptation planning.
the integration of climate change into existing planning/policy systems.
and communication are critical to this process.
words: climate change, impacts, adaptation
of the two reports are available in hard copy:
Final Report at £25.00
Appendices Report at £25.00
report is available separately in electronic format at £20.00
prices less 20% to FWR members.
The reports are available for download from the SNIFFER Website