Flooded roads

Monday’s IPCC Report

October of 2013 is hurtling away into the distance. It is when the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC) was released. On Monday next week the Sixth Assessment Report is due.

On page 21 of the last report there is a graph. It shows a series of pathways. Basically these say ‘if we follow this pattern of carbon emissions we end up here, if we follow this other path we end up here’. There were six of them and (spoiler alert) not all of them are likely to result in the survival of human civilisation as we know it.

Where do the different lines on that graph diverge? Basically now, which will be confirmed again next week. We squandered the time we were given in 2013 and now we’re not approaching a tipping point, we’re on it.

And if you’re feeling smug that you are in Scotland and we’re one of the good guys, don’t be. We’re not only cosying up to the oil industry and its every whim, we’re now actually selling big oil companies our next generation of fabulous renewable energy potential.

We set targets to make ourselves look great and then come up with plans to meet them which the careful and very highly-regarded Chief Executive of the UK’s Climate Change Committee described as “on the fringes of credibility”  – and that’s with his posh telephone voice.

We’re faking it. It is surprisingly hard to be Scotland and not have a great performance on renewable energy but our houses leak heat, our road transport belches carbon, our land is so poorly managed it is now a net emitter of carbon and of course we protect our planet-killing oil and gas industry. We’re not the good guys at all.

Fear or anger or both might be reasonable responses to it all – but in Scotland we should make sure we let go of neither our determination nor our hope. Because Scotland is frankly amazing and if we were to do what we should be doing it wouldn’t only be making us a world-leader in climate change it would make us a world-leader in ending poverty and increasing wages as well.

There’s nothing magical or unrealistic about this statement, it is only reflecting the reality. Scotland is clean-energy-rich, land-rich, skills-rich and frankly people-poor (as in after centuries of out-migration and low population growth, there’s really not that many of us up here). 

We’re rolling in space which means we could be rolling in clean resources if we were using it well. And since climate change prevention is really a big engineering project what we need most is abundant clean energy, abundant clean resources and a skilful population.

Turning that into a powerful and thriving domestic high-skill industry base is not rocket science. All you need to do is plan the path forward, prepare for it properly and build the infrastructure needed to propel us down that path.

And if you can build a thriving, clean, high-skill industry base in Scotland then turning that into a powerful tool to end poverty is not rocket science either. It is just about being strategic with where we put our investment, who owns it, how we train people for new industries and where and how we make our early infrastructure interventions.

Reform our land and turn it into an engine room of material production (rewilding what it is not practical to make productive). Use that raw material to produce advanced timber products and bioplastics. Use these to supply heavy engineering work (like construction) and light manufacturing work (like making household goods).

Target areas where there is unemployment, industry sectors with low pay and industries we need to transition out of altogether and provide them specialist training with guaranteed jobs at the end.

To guarantee the jobs, develop an industrial strategy, doing things that need done at scale via proper public works (like retrofitting all of Scotland’s houses), driving forward things better done by the private sector (for example by offering guaranteed procurement contracts) and ensuring diverse, smaller-scale domestic ownership (so the profits aren’t all exported).

By starting the retrofit and renovation programme in poorer areas with poor-quality housing we make a major start on regenerating communities. By being really ambitious over 25 years we need leave no-one behind.

There is so much more opportunity here, far too much to squeeze into an article this length (so please, if you care about Scotland’s future at all, read the Common Home Plan).

Yes there are reasons to be worried; the implications of climate change seem to be spiralling in front of our eyes. And as for the sorry coalition of powerful vested interests which seem to run Scotland as they see fit and which prevent all of the above from happening, a bit more anger directed towards them would be a good use of your anger.

But it would be terrible waste of Scotland’s potential if any of this were to lead to us overlooking what is in our hands. It is a heartbreaking truth that for many people in many nations, the effort to avoid climate change will involve real sacrifice. There is reason to fell a bit guilty that in Scotland it looks more like an absolute gift.

Yet make no mistake; our land and its possibilities really is a gift. It is not yet too late to accept that gift gratefully for all of the people of Scotland. So be optimistic, but be determined. The world’s climate is on a tipping point. So is Scotland.

Robin McAlpine

4 thoughts on “Monday’s IPCC Report”

    1. Hi Tom, Thanks for flagging that up. The last couple of paragraphs were missed off – all fixed now.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top