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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 July, 2003, 12:16 GMT 13:16 UK
'Less snow and rain' for islands
Children playing in snow
A dramatic drop in snowfall is predicted
The amount of snow falling on Scotland's islands could drop by almost 90%, according to a report on global warming.

The British-Irish Council study predicted higher temperatures and lower summer rainfall for the Western Isles, the Orkneys and Shetland.

Researchers also and said sea levels around the islands were expected to rise by the end of the century.

The work was carried out by the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, which is part of the Met Office.

The report's findings for the main Scottish islands over the next 100 years were:

  • for the medium-high scenario of future emissions, annual temperatures could rise by 1.8C for the Western Isles, 2C for the Orkney Islands and 2.2C for the Shetland Isles

  • summer rainfall will decrease by 22% in the Western Isles, 27% in the Orkney Islands and 19% in the Shetland Isles

  • winter rainfall will increase by 8% in the Western Isles, and 10% in both the Orkney Islands and the Shetland Isles

  • average snowfall could decrease by up to 89%

  • net sea levels are expected to rise between nine and 69cm.

Deputy Environment Minister Allan Wilson said: "Climate change is a matter of concern for us all and it is vital we are in a position to tackle its most serious impacts.

"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.

"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 the climate."

It even begins to answer the question of whether life itself will be tenable in the Scottish Islands in 100 years time
WWF Scotland
Dr Richard Dixon, head of policy for WWF Scotland, said: "Scotland's island communities are likely to be the first to experience the major consequences of climate change because they depend so heavily on the sea for their survival.

"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."

He added that valuable habitats like the machair of the Western Isles and many important archaeological sites, as well as many coastal settlements, will be under serious threat from coastal flooding.

"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," he added.

Green MSP Mark Ruskell also renewed calls for Scotland to set a target for cutting emissions that cause climate change and criticised the Scottish Executive for doing little to tackle the problem.

"Allan Wilson says that climate change is a matter of concern for us all yet the executive still has not committed itself to a target to cut climate-changing emissions," said Mr Ruskell, the Greens' environment spokesperson.

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