Climate change ‘may be good for Scotland’

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CLIMATE change will lead to “fewer winter deaths” and lower heating bills for households in Scotland, an internationally renowned scientist and key adviser to the UK government has claimed in a newly published report.

Lord John Krebs, the head of a UK government advisory body on climate change, told The Scotsman that the extreme change in weather patterns would also hand “good opportunities” and a boost to Scottish businesses, due to the melting of ice across the Arctic and the opening-up of new shipping routes for firms.

However, the report included a stark warning about the “damaging impacts” of climate change in Scotland, which it said would “increase” the country’s vulnerability” due to a greater risk of flooding and storms, which would leave the poorest and elderly the worst affected.

Lord Krebs, chairman of the adaptation sub-committee to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), said that parts of Scotland’s Central Belt would be more prone to flooding, with housing at risk due to “major weather events” such as the heavy storms climate change is likely to bring.

The report, partly written by the peer, who is also the principal of Jesus College, Oxford University, said that the “higher average winter temperatures” associated with climate change would mean less people died due to the affects of harsh weather.

There was also a claim in the report that climate change would lead to ice melting across the Arctic, “opening-up new shipping routes in the Arctic, from northern European countries such as Norway through to the USA and Canada”.

However, it warned of the risk of increased pollution in Scotland’s waters due to a possible rise in the number of ships sailing along the new routes.

Iain McMillan, director of CBI Scotland, said “Scottish business may benefit” from parts of climate change, while senior Tory MSP Alex Johnstone said that there could be “some positives” from the environmental change.

Lord Krebs, a former chairman of the British Food Standards Agency, said that the changes to seasonal temperatures were likely to grip Scotland by 2050, with other positive affects also leading to a boost for tourism, due to sunnier climes, as well as lower heating bills. He said: “There could be implications for heating bills, as there’s a likelihood that winters will be milder.

“In the longer term there could well be a reduction in people’s heating bills as the winters get warmer.

“It’s uncertain as to when this might happen, but we could be talking about the period from the middle of the century.

“Part of the story for Scotland is that we’re perhaps talking about people who are getting towards middle aged now, enjoying a warmer climate when they are pensioners.

“It’s not just heating bills though, as there will be positive opportunities in leisure and tourism, with the warmer climate meaning that there are more chances for outdoors activities and people are also more likely to visit as tourists when the weather is warmer.”

Lord Krebs said that the melting of Arctic ice due to climate change could lead to a growth in global trade opportunities for Scottish business.

He said: “If Arctic ice melts, it will have benefits in opening up new shipping routes and boosting international trade.

“But at the same time there’s more of a risk of pollution, as the water becomes more active. We’re talking about anywhere covered by ice.

“Climate change for Scotland would mean that there would be good opportunities for Scottish business if it thinks well ahead.

“We in the UK, including Scotland, have this opportunity for the exporting of raw materials and manufactured goods.”

Mr McMillan said: “I won’t say that climate change is good for Scotland or for Scottish business, as climate change is a most unwelcome development.

“But if it opens up new sea routes, such as new viable routes to the north of Russia, perhaps Scottish business may benefit from that.”

Tory MSP Mr Johnstone said: “This report has the effect of offering us a broader perspective on the issue and it’s possible that there may be some positives, but I’m also fully aware that the consequences associated with climate change are seriously unpredictable,”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Taking action on climate change is one of our top priorities.”