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Climate change could prove an ill wind for turbines

The Scottish Government has been warned climate change could make wind turbines grind to a halt for “sustained” periods of time.

First Minister Alex Salmond has said he wants all of Scotland’s electricity to come from renewable energy sources by 2020.

A new report by the Adaptation Committee on Climate Change published yesterday warns that the effects of climate change – which scientists predict will make Scotland wetter and warmer – could have a major impact on these plans.

The report states that this could particularly affect wind turbines. Although it notes technology is likely to improve, it warns sustained lulls in wind could lead to addition carbon dioxide emissions because of the need to use fossil fuels as back-up.

It states: “In wind power, there is considerable uncertainty about future wind patterns from current climate model projections. The effect of a given change in wind on power output is, however, well known.”

The report found the Scottish Government has made good progress in putting in a framework to cope with climate change but warns more action will be necessary as Scotland becomes increasingly vulnerable to its effects.

However, it also says warmer temperatures will also bring significant benefits to Scottish society. These include a reduction in winter deaths as average temperatures rise, increased tourism opportunities and the potential for new crops to be grown.

It even claims melting Arctic ice could open improved trade routes to Canada.

Lord John Krebs, chairman of the Adaptation subcommittee, said: “While at first glance it may appear that Scotland will not be significantly affected be climate change and may see some benefits, it has a number of characteristics that mean it could be vulnerable to a changing climate in the future.

“It is important that the Scottish Government now focus on understanding how its policies will address the risks from climate change by managing these vulnerabilities, increasing its resilience and taking advantage of any opportunities.”

The Scottish Government has said tackling climate change is a top priority. Climate Change minister Stewart Stevenson will travel to Durban in South Africa for the United Nations COP 17 conference on climate change which begins on Monday.

He said: “We are immensely proud of what Scotland has achieved to date on the climate change agenda in the private sector, local government and by individuals.

“Some developing countries are already seeing the devastating effect of climate change, in part caused by heavy industrialisation from the developed world, and we must act now.”

Tom Ballantine, chairman of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, said: “Scotland has already taken a strong position with our Climate Change Act, which remains the strongest climate law in the world, including a target to reduce emissions by 42% by 2020 and 80% by 2050.

“We must continue to show the world that a country like ours can become a truly low-carbon economy.”

Stan Blackley, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, added: “The Scottish Government needs to seriously ‘up its game’ and fully fund all of the emissions reduction measures identified in its own Climate Change Act.

“As an easy start, it should invest in energy efficiency and demand reduction measures, reverse recent cuts to active and sustainable travel budgets, and initiate a nationwide, free and universal home insulation scheme.”