Climate change: Cowardly politicians need to stop prevaricating and tell the public what must be done – Kenny MacAskill MP

And so it’s come finally to us. Any thoughts that global warming only affected poorer lands in the southern hemisphere or around the Mediterranean have already been shown to be fanciful.

Wealthier countries such as France have been struggling with wildfires in recent weeks, just as Germany faced floods not too long ago.

Our heatwave wasn’t simply a replication of 1976 but a portent of things to come. Scotland was hot and uncomfortable but in parts of England it was positively dangerous. And it’s not a one-off or even once in a generation but likely to become a regular event.

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Allied to that’s the worsening of winter storms. The winds we faced earlier this year were bad enough. What if they speed up, just like the temperature has risen? It’s a frightening prospect and one that we need to react to now. It won’t be easy and it won’t be quick. The damage done can’t be reversed but a worsening can be tackled and the apocalypse avoided.

Smoke rises from La Teste-de-Buch forest as people enjoy the beach at Pyla sur mer, in southwest France (Picture: Thibaud Moritz/AFP via Getty Images)

However, that requires political leadership and public buy-in. If politicians run from stating what will be required and emphasising how essential it is, then how can we expect the public to follow? It’s going to be hard as this will come at a cost, not just in money but in lifestyles that we’ve become used to.

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At the COP26 climate summit, Boris Johnson was happy to prance the stage, stating it was “one minute to midnight” to prevent climate catastrophe. Yet he’ll soon be gone and his would-be replacements have been ignoring the risks, with vacillation on vital climate targets. Some seemed to think we could just turn the clock back, but we can’t.

The global jamboree in Glasgow was underwhelming but at least there seemed to be an understanding of the need to act and change our ways. But when push comes to shove and when it’s realised just what that might mean for our current lifestyles, political leaders run for cover.

Major floods killed scores of people and devastated large parts of western Germany in July last year (Picture: Sebastien Bozon/AFP via Getty Images)

Investment in renewables is welcome, as is support for insulation and other action. But there also has to be a change in the ‘live today and hell mend tomorrow’ way of life.

I’m all for subsidising fuel costs so that folk can heat their home and workers can be recompensed for their mileage in the vital work they do.

But others things have to change. Surely, the age of cheap flights can’t go on. The damage to the environment’s too great.

Tax them more and reduce the burden for others. There might even be money to improve infrastructure and facilities for our own holiday communities, many of which are badly in need of a revamp.

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Similarly, the damage done by maritime diesel must see cruise liners pay a premium. That doesn’t mean the lifeline services or fishing boats need be penalised. Other actions will equally affect the way we live and perhaps even restrict once-enjoyable pursuits. But change there must be.

Technology can’t save us, how we live must alter. Otherwise, firstly it’ll be the poor in the southern hemisphere and then it’ll be our children and grandchildren. But, to help the former and leave any legacy at all for the latter, we have to change our ways.

Kenny MacAskill is Alba Party MP for East Lothian



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