Scotland is not irrelevant to climate change

by | 22 Jul 2022

The latest version of Scottish climate denial is to argue that we aren't big enough to matter anyway. But our role can be measured in more than kilotons - Scotland really can make a difference

How was your heatwave? Pleasant, brilliant, scary, inconvenient? I’m up a hill and had a pleasant breeze on a couple of lightly cloudy days when I didn’t need to travel, meaning mine was really quite pleasant. So let’s all get back to explaining why not doing anything about climate change is the right solution.

I don’t mean outright denial since that’s now terribly unfashionable. I mean the way of ignoring climate change which involves you saying you definitely believe in it and that it’s the next thing on your to do list. That’s been by far the most efficient means of destroying the planet without getting into trouble.

It can keep you quite busy, being a neo-denialist. You can set targets (just pick a number – you can always blame Covid/Putin/Brexit later). You can announce a climate emergency (which is cool because you literally have to do fuck all). You can get lots and lots of pictures taken of you (could be huskies, could be trees, could be famous people at a climate conference).

You can write plans (just scribble down something about Carbon Capture and Storage and hope no-one has read about how it doesn’t work). You can claim that global corporations have seen the light and are fixing it all already (Greggs does vegan sausage rolls now which proves it).

Or you can say that you really believe in it and are committed to saving the world but only at precisely the same pace as everyone else (also known as DNBC – Do Nothing, Blame China).

If you’re in a position to do anything substantial about the crisis it literally doesn’t matter whether you fool the punters into thinking you’re doing enough or whether you persuade them that you’ll do a little bit but really it’s not your problem because of foreigners – either way you win.

Of course you do, you always win – you’re old and rich, you’re powerful and one way or another you are heavily invested in what is destroying the world. And that isn’t ‘people’, that is big business. If you yourself have power and are not a big business leader you are probably a senior politician with the full expectation that you will become one of them after politics.

This all poses lots of questions for the inquiring mind. If corporations are ‘the solution’, how do you square that off with the enormous amounts of money they spend trying to persuade politicians not to do the right thing? How do you look at the damage they have done and still present them as the good guys? And if you believe in self-regulating markets, you’re mad.

If you’re in a position to do anything substantial about the crisis it literally doesn’t matter whether you fool the punters into thinking you’re doing enough or whether you persuade them that you’ll do a little bit but really it’s not your problem because of foreigners – either way you win

If targets were effective action they’d be met, right? Even once in a blue moon. Let’s rule out climate emergencies and selfies as forms of useful action. It is now incontrovertible that Carbon Capture and Storage promises will not be met and that your climate plan lacks any credibility. Doesn’t that mean you don’t have enough of a plan even to pretend that you might meet your targets?

The ‘blame China’ thing, that’s persuasive though, right? Them shifty foreigners can’t be trusted to do their bit so us rich people might as well just pillage the fuck out of what is left alive on the planet. When it comes down to it, who really cares? Sure, tree huggers and young people. That’s why we have vegan craft bakeries and TikTok, to keep their minds off it.

Come on, no-one you know really cares about it, right? You kind of say you do but then you shrug and carry on much as before. Why not? The Scottish ‘Green’ Party is about to vote down a Bill requiring Passive standards for new build housing based on their relentless greed for a hint of power and SNP’s environmental failures come so fast no-one can keep up (this week we learned the rate of peat bog restoration is running at 40 per cent of the already modest promises).

And no-one cares about it because it’s all just so damned complicated and… well, hard. Grab a Green and get them to explain at length how government is complicated, the free market economy must be respected and how the ‘grown-up, responsible thing to do’ is to permit corporations to build shit houses that will need retrofitted again over the next decade or two.

Does it matter to you that pretty well every argument I have presented above is a lie or a trick (except the bit about the Scottish Greens voting against higher building standards and the SNP’s record on meeting its targets which are sadly completely true)?

Corporations are flat out not the solution to climate change but the problem. They have to be regulated or (for many functions) replaced, not trusted. They are not ‘assisting with an energy transition’, they are stealing it from you while still prolonging their bad old ways. They are not ‘key partners’ in the shift to a circular economy which Green Party leaders are telling people in private, they are lobbying against it (it is them who delayed the bottle deposit scheme).

The solutions to all of this are absolutely no global but local. Whether or not China is cleaning up its act fast enough is frankly not your business for as long as your own governments are not even nearly cleaning up their acts fast enough.

Scotland as an independent nation can go miles beyond net zero without much more than a bit of hard work. Even without independence we can go miles further than our pathetic response so far. Doing it right means we need not sacrifice any of our current quality of life (though we do need to achieve some of that quality of life in a slightly different way).

We have the resources, wealth, skills (nearly) and time to fix everything pretty quickly – and we’re not. What does that say about us? Instead we sit around decrying China which has a much, much tougher task ahead of it than we do. Frankly China should be refusing to act until we do, not the other way round.

On the climate, Scotland matters just as much as Scotland chooses to matter. 

So please stop staring under the bonnet and sucking air through your teeth to try and mentally prepare people for the shock which is about to come. That was a mild summer. On average, all the summers to come are going to be worse than that, then worse again, then worse again. Those summers will fade into autumn storms which will strike fear into you.

The world’s food economy will break down sooner or later as we destroy soil fertility and extreme weather patterns disrupt harvests more and more, which will be exacerbated by rich countries stockpiling.

And then there’s the ocean. I’m not sure if you properly realise this but there is no version of the future in which St Andrews survives. Even keeping temperature rises to 1.5 degrees (we’re not even close) results in a subaquatic St Andrews by the end of this century. It isn’t alone; Hillington (including Glasgow Airport) will also be subaquatic by then.

Which is to say the future of civilisation as we know it is genuinely in the hands of this generation – and its village elders are putting more effort into persuading you they’re not the bad guys than they are at trying to be the good guys.

None of this is complicated. Scotland either gets its act together or it doesn’t. Everything else is the noise politicians, corporate PRs and newspaper columnists make when they want you to think anything other than the thing you out to be thinking.

Scotland is the opposite from irrelevant on the world stage. We have become world leaders at tell, but our real impact would be to show. Show the world it can be done. Show the world there is a population with the courage and wit to do something about it. Shame those who ought to be doing something about it who aren’t.

The UK won’t act. The US won’t act. Neither will China or India or anyone other big nation. None of them is going to take sufficient steps. We’re helping them to not act by also not acting.

The world’s best hope is that one nation does this right and leads. If one country can transition to zero carbon and show that it can improve people’s quality of life at the same time, the contribution to the cause of saving civilisation will be enormous.

It isn’t Scotland. It isn’t nearly Scotland – but it could be. We might be small, but the latest lie the powerful are feeding you is that we therefore don’t really matter. Not everything is measured in kilotons. On the climate, Scotland matters just as much as Scotland chooses to matter. 

For the love of god people, wake up and choose life.

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