Page last updated at 23:59 GMT, Friday, 21 August 2009 00:59 UK

Pupils air climate change fears

Cornaig Beach, Tiree (picture by Mo McLeod)

By Philippa Law
BBC World Class

Young people in Glasgow and the west of Scotland have been discussing their fears about climate change and how rising sea levels will affect their local area.

Pupils at schools in Prestwick, Glasgow and Tiree have taken part in a workshop run by Atlantic Rising, an education project raising awareness about the consequences of sea level rise for low-lying communities around the Atlantic.

"Tiree is an island so it's surrounded by sea," explained Beatrice, one of the pupils who took part. "Some of the houses are very close to the shore and sometimes when there's bad weather they get wet."

Bernie, another Tiree High School student, expressed concern that global warming could destroy the island entirely. "If the sea levels are rising, Tiree is just going to sink. That's why it's called the land below the waves."

The reality is likely to be less dramatic. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated in 2007 that sea levels would rise by up to 59cm by the end of the century, but recent research has suggested seas could rise by more than one metre.

Billie from Prestwick Academy
Billie from Prestwick Academy worries about losing touch with friends

So, although Tiree will not be submerged in Bernie's lifetime, there is a definite risk homes close to the coast will suffer serious flooding.

Euan, from Jordanhill School in Glasgow, has a sudden realisation: "If the sea levels rise, I won't be able to play golf!"

But his classmate, Sophie, said she was not convinced, adding: "I think most people think global warming would affect them. Being a global warming sceptic, I don't think so.

"Possibly the climate will get hotter but I certainly don't think it will happen to the extent they've predicted."

The Atlantic Rising team are spending 11 months travelling around the ocean's coastline, visiting schools in Canada, Mexico, West Africa and western Europe, to spread the word about sea level rise and to hear what young people think.

Billie from Prestwick Academy said she was worried rising seas could mean losing touch with her friends.

Practical changes

"The sea's quite high anyway, so if it rose it would probably come over the wall," she said.

"A lot of my friends stay really close to the sea, so, if their houses got flooded, they'd have to move and it would be hard for us to carry on doing stuff together."

Like most of the young people interviewed in Scotland, Billie said it was everyone's responsibility to look after the natural world.

"But," she added, "The government should help us. They should be thinking about ways we can help it. We can only do what they tell us to."

Chloe from Tiree said there were already practical changes people could make.

"People drive around in their cars when they don't need to and the more they do that, the more it is hurting nature," she said.

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