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Climate ‘apocalypse’ to leave Scotland with abandoned villages, doomed forests and no birdsong within decade

Warming world and commercial pressures putting country at risk of severe degradation, Scottish Natural Heritage warns

Harry Cockburn
Friday 07 June 2019 15:42 BST
Climate ‘apocalypse’ to leave Scotland with abandoned villages, doomed forests and no birdsong within decade

Scotland faces numerous catastrophic impacts from the climate crisis which could leave the country with polluted waters, abandoned villages, dying forests and few remaining birds, the head of the country’s environment agency is to warn.

Outlining the apocalyptic scenario the country could face within the next decade, Francesca Osowska, head of Scottish Natural Heritage, will call for urgent action to tackle the environmental degradation already taking a heavy toll on Scotland.

Some of the biggest impacts include enormous wildfires which burned across swathes of the country in April and May, with one in Moray described as one of the largest wildfires seen in the UK in recent years.

Firefighters said lack of rain meant fires have quickly spread through peat and heather.

The country also faces the twin perils of both lack of water, and heightened risks of flooding, due to less rainfall, but rising sea levels which threaten low-lying coastal regions.

Warming temperatures have already changed the timings of spring events such as leaf unfolding, bird migration and egg-laying, as well as fish abundance and spawning locations, according to the Scottish government.

The country is failing to meet its own target to plant more trees with more land being given over to agriculture, while the salmon industry is already dealing with the impact of algal blooms due to climate change and pesticide use, and a surge in oil and gas exploration in the North Sea is expected to soon be under way which will further compound the problem.

“Let me paint you a picture of what we could have in Scotland in 2030,” Ms Osowska will say in her address at the Royal Society of Edinburgh this evening, according to The Times.

“Imagine an apocalypse – polluted waters; drained and eroding peatlands; coastal towns and villages deserted in the wake of rising sea level and coastal erosion; massive areas of forestry afflicted by disease; a dearth of people in rural areas and no birdsong.

“All of this is possible, and there are parts of the world we can point to where inaction has given rise to one or more of these nightmare landscapes.”

Ms Osowska will cite the UN report released earlier this month which paints a devastating picture of the planet’s biodiversity loss, with up to a million species facing extinction in the world’s sixth mass die-off.

She will describe it as “the most significant environmental report ever”, and say it is not too late to act.

She will praise the Scottish government for declaring a “climate emergency” at the end of April, which pledges to cut net carbon emissions to zero by 2045.

Ms Osowska became chief executive of Scottish Natural Heritage in October 2017 and was previously director of the Scotland Office in Westminster, and also served as principal private secretary to Alex Salmond during his tenure as first minister of Scotland.

The Scottish government told The Times: “We agree that there is an urgent need to respond to the global climate emergency, on which Scotland is already demonstrating world-leading ambition.

“And we are also committed to doing all we can to ensure that Scotland’s environment is protected so that landscapes, wildlife and communities can continue to co-exist and flourish.”

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