What Is Climate Change?

The video below provides an introduction to climate change.

The Climate Change Emergency

Whilst for some time, there has recognition that climate change is one of the biggest risks facing our planet, the urgency of action was brought sharply into focus in 2018 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which stated that we must limit global warming to 1.5°C. Even with a rise of 1.5°C, IPCC reported that there would be risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security and economic growth. A rise of 2°C would be even more catastrophic.

In May 2019 the UK Parliament declared a climate change emergency, this was followed by the Climate Change Secretary's statement to the Scottish Parliament on 14 May 2019.

Carbon Footprint

A carbon footprint is a measure of the impact our activities have on the environment. The amount of carbon emitted by an individual, organisation, product, service, or place in a given period of time, expressed as CO2e. Why not use this useful tool by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to calculate your carbon footprint..


How will Scotland be impacted by climate change?

Our climate is changing and we’re already seeing the impact in Scotland and the 10 warmest years on record have all since 1997. Over 90% of Perth and Kinross residents surveyed in 2021 indicated that they had already noticed changes to the climate.

In addition to warming of the climate, the past few decades have seen changes in rainfall patterns and rises in sea-levels. The weather is also getting more extremes with our hottest days getting hotter and our wettest days getting wetter.

Climate projections indicate that the changes we have already experienced in our climate, over the last century, will continue and intensify over the coming decades. Ultimately the amount of change that occurs will depend on how successful we are in reducing greenhouse gas emissions globally. The IPCC warns that we only have a limited period left (2030) to take the decisive and serious action required to avert this crisis and avoid the worst impacts.

Key long-term climate change trends for Scotland are:

  • Average temperatures will increase across all seasons
  • Weather will remain variable and may become more variable
  • Typical summers will be warmer and drier
  • Typical winters will be milder and wetter
  • Intense, heavy rainfall events will increase in both winter and summer
  • Sea levels will rise
  • Reduced frost and snowfall

It is important to recognise that these changes will not be uniform across Scotland or even across the large area that is Perth and Kinross. Adaptation Scotland provides more detail on Scotland’s Climate Projections.

The impact of these changes will depend on how quickly we can reduce emissions to net zero and what actions we take to adapt Scotland and Perth and Kinross to the current and future changes in climate.

  • Loss of nature, important habitats and species
  • Increased occurrence and severity of flooding
  • Damage to buildings and infrastructure, creating challenges to protect our built heritage including buildings of architectural and historical significance
  • Potential damage to paths and places of recreation
  • A reduction in the availability and quality of water due to rising temperatures and the need to meet growing domestic, agricultural, and industrial demands
  • Increased risk of pests and diseases impacting the natural environment, including woodlands, wildlife, and crops
  • Potential impacts on food supply
  • Potential impacts on energy supply security and efficiency – power outages
  • Reduced rainfall increases the risk of wildfires
  • Heat stress
  • Impacts on stability and security of livelihoods
  • Impacts on poverty and economic growth

What is Net Zero?

‘Net Zero’ refers to the balance achieved between carbon emitted into the atmosphere and the carbon removed from it. We will reach Net Zero when the amount of carbon we add to the atmosphere equals the amount removed. The Scottish Government has set ambitious targets to reach net zero by 2045, with interim targets of 75% by 2030 and 90% by 2040 against 1990 levels.

These targets can be achieved through a combination of reducing the carbon we put out, as well as increasing the amount of carbon we are removing from the atmosphere (sequestration). To reach Net Zero emission reductions are essential in all sectors including transport, agriculture, at home, industry, and energy. Changing the way we use our land can help to sequester carbon through uses such as tree planting and peatland restoration.

Reaching net zero will help avoid global warming continuously increasing and will lessen the severity of climate change effects. It is a key milestone in working towards net negative where we can take action to reverse some of the already observed climate changes. The shift to a low carbon future will not only reduce emissions, but has potential to build a fairer, greener and more resilient Scotland for future generations. Acting now is essential to achieving this vision.

Scotland was the first country to declare a climate emergency, and it has the resources, innovation, and support to lead the transition to net zero on a global scale. Net zero is vital for the climate, nature, and people. It is an exciting opportunity to completely transform our society and economy. Our ‘just transition’ towards a greener, more sustainable, net zero country will be done in a way that is fair and inclusive, benefitting all of us.

Climate Literacy

Climate literacy is the ability to be able to understand your influence on the climate and the climate’s influence on you and wider society. This includes understanding how to assess scientifically credible information and being able to communicate about climate change in a meaningful way.

Education is critical to promote and deliver effective climate action. There are a variety of climate literacy resources available to help. Below you will find courses which enable individuals, communities, organisations, local authorities, and teachers to develop their knowledge and awareness of climate change. These short literacy courses are incredibly valuable, providing solution focused discussions which empowers attendees with the knowledge to implement action and tackle the climate crisis. The courses help towards enabling practical action, minimising our impact on the environment, with a focus to ensure Scotland becomes net-zero by 2045.

The Carbon Literacy Project

The award-winning Carbon Literacy Project provides climate courses for organisations, individuals and trainers.


Keep Scotland Beautiful - Climate Literacy Project

Keep Scotland Beautiful deliver various climate emergency courses. This is the only Carbon Literate Training Organisation in Scotland and the only Scottish organisation to have attained Gold Carbon Literate Organisation status. The courses are being delivered to highlight that we must all play a part to combat climate change.


Scottish Cities Alliance - Elected Member Carbon Literacy

Scottish Cities Alliance are working with the Improvement Service and Keep Scotland Beautiful to deliver training specifically for elected members. The training sets out to provide elected members with the following:

  • Gain an understanding of the basic science of climate change and how climate change will affect us all both locally and globally
  • Gain an understanding of how elected members can mobilise change
  • Explore the low carbon objectives in the local government sector
  • Create an action plan to help reduce the carbon footprint of their local authority
  • Explore strategies to influence others to take action on climate change


Royal Scottish Geographical Society – Climate Literacy Courses for Enterprises

The Royal Scottish Geographical Society provide climate literacy training for businesses and organisations. The training is aimed to help professionals and managers in the public, private, academic, and voluntary sectors. Attendees are expected to gain a significant understanding of climate change, the associated challenges and outline the opportunities for transformation whilst responding to the climate crisis.

Climate Solutions | The Royal Scottish Geographical Society (rsgs.org)

Community Based Climate Literacy Course

Forward Coupar Angus provide climate literacy learning modules aimed at local people within the community. The training programme seeks to explain the causes and consequences of climate change and to highlight the difference people can make by adopting carbon reduction behaviours.

Climate Literacy - Forward Coupar Angus

Please let us know if you are aware of any other climate literacy courses focussed on engaging with communities within Perth and Kinross.

Climate Literacy for Schools

Please see our Take Action at Schools section of the website which provides a list of training resources.

Carbon Literacy in Perth & Kinross Council

A climate change course has been developed by Perth and Kinross Council. Each member of staff completes the course as part of essential learning objectives and their understanding of the subject is tested. The essential training explores what climate change is, how we know it is happening, and why each member of Perth & Kinross Council needs to take action now.  In addition, the material covers what action is taking place globally, in Scotland, and also across Perth and Kinross.


Climate change has lots of terms that may be unfamiliar. View the Glossary page for a list of commonly used terms relating to climate.

Useful Links

Adaptation Scotland

The UK Climate Change Commission

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

Fire Scotland - Climate Change and Wildfires

NatureScot - Climate Change Impacts in Scotland

United Nations - Climate Change: Impacts on Human Security