I’m in a love affair with Scotland. I lived there for three years thirty years ago, and in the intervening years, I’ve returned thirteen times.
This past summer, I spent five weeks in Scotland: exploring Edinburgh anew, a city of turrets and spires; revisiting Midlothian where our family resided; rambling through coastal villages in Fife; visiting my sister, her husband, and dear friends; and feasting on visions of “drystane dykes” (stone walls without mortar) and rolling vistas descending to the Firth of Forth.
The skies were clear blue; flowers–roses, fuchsia ‘trees,’ lavender, and poppies, all at their peak–overflowed pots and beds.
And the golf courses and hillsides—unexpectedly—were turning from their usual emerald green to yellow-gold and then to shades of brown, far too early for this predictably rainy country.
One of Scotland’s well-known, humorous postcards is divided into four boxes, each containing one of the four seasons: winter, spring, summer, and fall. Each box pictures a sheep standing in the rain—winter snow/rain, spring rain, summer rain, and fall rain.
“Welcome to Scotland, where the seasons don’t matter” says a joke.
When it rains in Scotland, people just get on with it.
Rain has made Scotland a haven for flower lovers, like me, and a go-to-place for a lot of golfers. (It’s a country of only 5.3 million people, but Scotland boasts 550 golf courses!) It is not known as a go-to-place for a summer tan. But it was this year.
This year—the summer of 2018–the seasons mattered. During the five weeks I was there, it rained only twice.
Scotland’s churches celebrate harvest Sunday in September. But this summer, Scotland’s farmers started harvesting in mid-July.
On June 28th, Glasgow, Scotland, topped 91.7 degrees—the second highest temperature ever recorded anywhere in Scotland. The BBC reported that “The ‘weatherproof’ membrane on Glasgow Science Centre’s roof melted and dripped black ‘goo’ down the building” because of the heat—Scotland, like many other places, isn’t prepared for such temperatures.
In a report from the Met Office (the people behind British weather forecasts), “there has been a general increase in summer temperatures averaged over the country as a result of human influence on climate, making the occurrence of warm summer temperatures more frequent.” And they add, “Every region of the UK is forecast to see average summer temperatures rise by around three degrees over the next 60 years.”
Scotland wasn’t alone in experiencing such a summer. During the first week of July, in the north, from Siberia to Canada–and across the rest of the globe—the planet baked.
Scientists from both NASA and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have said that “17 of the 18 warmest years since modern record-keeping began have occurred since 2001.” Seriously.
As the Washington Post said, “No single record, in isolation, can be attributed to global warming. But collectively, these heat records are consistent with the kind of extremes we expect to see increase in a warming world.”
A warming world could be considered good news for those who want Scottish suntans. It could portend trouble, though, for Scottish golf courses, bird life, fisheries, flowers, and farmers.
The Scientific community has agreed that humans are playing a leading role in climate change. They do not and will not agree on how fast it is warming, the extent of our species’ role versus other causes, or the specific consequences of climate change. Science doesn’t work this way. Science hypothesizes and tests out theories to get nearer to good conclusions. But thousands of experiments have led to their consensus that climate change is real, dangerous, and an emergency the whole world must address intentionally. Now.
Scotland is determined to be one of the countries taking the lead. According to the Scottish government, they plan to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 90% by 1950.”
All of Scotland’s efforts won’t be enough, though, unless the rest of the world—including the United States—is on board.
Friends, we need to vote out anyone who says they don’t believe in climate change. We need to vote in those who acknowledge it and plan to do something about it. We need to stand with local, state, and federal agencies that are making climate change a priority. We need to get on board, and we need to get our country on board, as well.
I want to still see pots and beds that are bulging with flowers, and fields that are emerald green, on my next visits to the Scotland that I love.