Preserving Pasts, Imagining Futures

A collection of images from the National Library of Scotland's collections highlighting the climate crisis.

North Uist, Coll, Portree, Barra (1905) by W and A.K. JohnstonNational Library of Scotland

Sea Level Rise: The Uists and Benbecula

Approximately 1,200 people live on the island of Benbecula, many in coastal locations. They depend upon the north-south spinal road which connects to North and South Uist by causeways.  

Gathering Peat on South Uist (1908/1975) by Seton Gordon (1886-1977)National Library of Scotland

These connections and many of the coastal settlements are at risk from inundation both from sea level rise and more extreme weather events which can cause further coastal damage. 

Transport links which are crucial for the community would also be affected. The highest point is only 124m with most of the island only 20m in elevation. With a maritime climate any warming could have a significant impact on the flora, fauna and farming on the island.  

Cairngorm snowbeds and scree (1908/1975)National Library of Scotland

Biodiversity and Snow Melt: The Cairngorms

While rising temperatures mostly affect the sub-arctic mountain plateau endangering flora and fauna resident since the last ice age, changes to the mountain environment will also affect the many people who make their living from the land.

Braemar and Blair Atholl (1902)National Library of Scotland

The Cairngorms National Park has seen a decline in the snow cover of its hills between 1968 – 2005. This decline can be linked with global heating and will have an impact on the local ecology and hydrology as well as  local communities.

Cairngorms (Braeriach snow) (1908/1975) by Seton Gordon (1886-1977)National Library of Scotland

However, the national park has taken steps to adapt to climate change,  including identifying the key role it has to play in tackling climate change through nature-based solutions such as peatland restoration and woodland creation.  

Page from a Journal (1842) by Miss Sarah TaylorNational Library of Scotland

Energy: The Clyde River Basin

Running from the Lanarkshire Hills through Glasgow city to the shallow estuary, the River Clyde has a diverse history associated with shipbuilding and heavy industries such as iron and steel works. 

More recent regeneration projects along the length of the river have been transforming these sites and shifting the industrial landscape to support healthier lifestyles and supporting the environment.

Reducing the energy we use and decarbonising our urban areas by moving away from fossil fuels is an important strand to Scotland's climate change strategy.

Renewable energy projects such as the large-scale water source heat pump scheme which has been installed at Queens Quay as well as Scotland’s largest windfarm at Whitelee are examples of this.    

Fifae pars occidentalis, the west part of Fife (1654) by Timothy Pont (c. 1560–c.1627)National Library of Scotland

Land Use and Agriculture: Fife

The Fife coast is popular with tourists for its scenic, historic fishing villages, but is also home to industry, and rich agricultural land. Our landscapes are part of Scotland’s natural capital which help support our rural communities and economies as well as our food product.

Using land sustainably can impact climate change while also protecting our vital soils and grasslands. The target is to maintain high quality food production and environmental standards while creating more sustainable,  healthier, local food systems. 

Looking down on Princes Street (1903) by Unknown photographerNational Library of Scotland

Transport: Edinburgh

As the capital city of Scotland, Edinburgh is a hub for domestic and international tourism. Transport accounts for 35.6% (2018 statistics) of Scotland’s emissions from daily travel, aviation, maritime, as well as heavy goods. 

Edinburgh tram on Princes Street (2014-05-31) by Ad MeskensNational Library of Scotland

Targets have been set to stop the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2032, while Edinburgh is transforming how we approach inner-city travel to encourage more sustainable low carbon and active travel to support healthier lifestyles and reduce pollution.  

Living Proof trailer

 A film exploring our complex relationship to the climate crisis using archive footage and music.  For more information on where you can see it visit:  Climate crisis film tour | National Library of Scotland (

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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