The Earth’s climate has changed many times in response to natural causes. The term climate change is usually used in reference to man-made changes in our climate that have occurred since the early 1900’s.
“There is a strong evidence that the warming of the Earth over the last half-century has been caused largely by human activity; such as the burning of fossil fuels and changes in land use, including agriculture and deforestation” (The Royal Society, ‘Climate change; a summary of the science’, September 2010.)
When considering climate change it’s important to recognise the difference between weather and climate.
Weather is the temperature, precipitation (rain, hail, sleet and snow) and wind, which change hour by hour and day by day. The weather is all around us, all the time. It’s an important part of our lives and one that we cannot control. Instead, the weather often controls us – how and where we live, what we do, what we wear and what we eat.
Climate is often spoken about at the same time as weather, but it’s something quite different. The climate is the common, average weather conditions at a particular place over a long period of time (often 30 years or more.) For example, the Caribbean maintains a tropical climate whilst Antarctica is known for its cold and dry climate.
It’s the increase in carbon emissions in the atmosphere as a result of human activities that’s causing the climate to change.
The UK Met Office have also produced a very clear introduction to climate change.
How will Fife be affected?
Fife is expected to become warmer and wetter in the winter, with hotter and drier summers. Though difficult to predict, more extreme weather events such as localised heavily rainfall are likely.
Over time we can expect more:
Pests like midges surviving through milder winters
Extinction of native plants and animals and the introduction of new plants and animals.
For an in-depth look at how extreme weather events are likely to affect Fife and, in particular, Fife Council, please take a look at the following publications, the Local Climate Change Impact Profile 2000-2010, attached at the foot of this page and this link to theCouncil’s Climate Change Adaption Framework.
The effects of climate change will cost Fife Council, the local economy and the people of Fife. For example:
Fife Council’s entire annual flood budget was used in 4 days following heavy rain in August 2008.
The flash flooding in North East Fife and Cupar in July 2009 cost Fife Council more than £13,000 in staff time and clean-up resources over just 2 days. An additional £1 million was required to repair the damage to 5 council buildings.
Agriculture could be affected by heavy rainfall through water logged soils, increased erosion and changes in the quality and costs of crop yields. The variable climate could put greater stresses on plants and animals, leaving them more vulnerable to pests and diseases.
Sea level rises could flood coastal road and rail networks, properties and tourism attractions, such as Fife’s ownSt Andrews Old Course. Increased rain fall will affect residents and businesses located on river flood pains and affect plans for future building in these areas.
Kirkcaldy Sea Wall. The capital investment for this project is £6.2 million with construction works commencing in late 2013 once planning approval is granted. Completion of the improvements is planned for Autumn 2014.
It’s clear that, without significant, urgent and sustained action to reduce carbon emissions we can expect extreme changes to our environment and more demands on our finances.