Climate change: an emergency for all of us
Climate change will lead to changes in technology, laws and markets that have been described as similar to the industrial revolution in scale. New risks, opportunities and responsibilities will create significant disruption which will in turn create business winners and losers.
How will your business be impacted and what should you be doing now?
We managed the Climate Challenge Fund on behalf of the Scottish Government until July of this year and supported communities tackle climate change.
We have offered training to help community leaders understand the climate emergency, its implications and to equip their communities to take positive action.
We help Scottish schools and youth workers to develop effective climate change learning and action programmes for young people through our Climate Ready Classrooms and the Youth Leader Climate initiatives.
From saving energy and cutting waste at home, to choosing sustainable travel and food, everyone needs to be involved if we are going to end Scotland’s contribution to climate change within a generation.
Why bother about climate change?
There are plenty of things to worry about already, particularly as the world battles the COVID-19 pandemic. So why worry about climate change?
Climate change is one of the biggest long-term threats to global human health. The Lancet Countdown identifies a range of significant negative impacts on global health including heat stress, extreme weather events, infectious disease transmission, food security and air quality.
Increased extreme weather events will cause more suffering and death. Extreme weather events have always been with us, but scientists tell us that they will become more frequent and more extreme. In the last year we’ve seen floods in Scotland and fires in Australia, reminding us that none of us are immune from natural disasters. Most of the suffering caused by these events never makes it to our TV screens but here’s an example of how ordinary people around the world suffer every week.
Climate change is damaging the natural world and the life-support systems that we all depend on. Global warming is likely to be the greatest cause of species extinctions this century. Scientists says a 1.5°C average rise may put 20-30% of species at risk of extinction. If the planet warms by more than 2°C, most ecosystems will struggle. It's no longer just about polar bears, coral reefs and ice caps. It’s about all of nature, including us. Our access to clean air, clean water, good food and a habitable environment are all put at risk by climate change.
The poorest and most vulnerable in our communities and our world will suffer the most. Climate change is deeply linked to inequality. The people most impacted are those who have contributed least to the problem. And that is deeply and fundamentally unfair. It's also likely to exacerbate existing conflict situations and the kind of mass displacement and migration challenges already being experienced around the world.
Taking action on climate change can build a better world
Many of the actions that we need to take to reduce emissions will bring significant benefits for Scotland, beyond reducing climate change risks.
And as the world grapples with how best to recover after the Covid-19 pandemic, a Green Recovery that includes action to tackle climate change, presents a way of bringing multiple benefits across society.
Better health. Lower carbon diets and more travel by bike or on foot are great for our physical and emotional health. Fewer petrol and diesel cars on our roads will improve air quality and could save up to 2,000 early deaths per year in Scotland.
Warmer homes and lower fuel bills. Reducing emissions from domestic heating will require better insulation standards. That means warmer homes, lower energy bills and an opportunity to end fuel poverty in Scotland.
Safer roads and better transport. Improving public transport will bring social and economic benefits to many, including the 30% of Scottish households that don’t own a car. Improved facilities for cyclists and pedestrians and a reduction of cars will make streets safer and urban centres more people-friendly. An increase in flexible and home-working opportunities will reduce the amount of time we spend commuting and stuck in traffic jams.
Self-sufficiency in energy. As we generate more of our energy in Scotland from clean renewable sources, we will reduce our dependency on other nations, create new high-value jobs in our economy and reduce the volatility of energy prices. Micro-generation, improved battery storage and the development of the grid network will create opportunities for more businesses, communities and households to earn an income through generating their own low-cost energy.
New jobs and economic opportunities. Scotland’s ambitious plans to decarbonise present an opportunity for our world-famous research, technology and engineering sectors to be at the forefront of new technological innovation and for Scotland to export new products and services to the rest of the world. There will be disruption as skills associated with old technologies (such as gas boilers) become redundant, but there will be a demand for new skills and jobs in a range of growth sectors such as low carbon heating and renewable energy generation.
A healthier natural world. Part of Scotland’s plan is to soak up more carbon through increased tree planting and peatland restoration. This creates an opportunity for significant large-scale improvement of wildlife habitats across Scotland, including in and around our major population centres. This could also create more and better opportunities for recreation and tourism, help to reduce the impact of flooding and potentially support the development of community land ownership and management in Scotland.