The world’s “elite” gathered in Davos this week for the World Economic Forum, with environmental challenges, including a failure to mitigate climate change at the top of their list of dangers facing the global economy.
Without a hint of irony politicians, economists and an assortment of other very rich people arrived at the Swiss ski resort carried by a flock of about 1,500 private jets.
The threat posed by climate change is not a new one, of course. Nor is the lack of substantial international action to address it seriously. The basic science has been understood for over 150 years, and the warnings from the scientific community about the need for an urgent political response are older than I am. The fact that those who so brazenly flaunt the wealth they have hoarded, and who are complicit in an economic system which has created the climate crisis, deem it appropriate to charter every private jet in the northern hemisphere demonstrates the lip-service they are paying this issue.
Quite clearly, we will not achieve the radical changes that are needed simply by asking politely for action from powerful people who have been so well served by the economic status quo.
We have also heard the news this week that a rapid climate shift under the Barents Sea is said to be at a tipping point, changing from an Arctic climate to an Atlantic climate as the water gets warmer.
This is hugely concerning and has the potential to dramatically affect ecosystems around Norway and beyond. This is the type of event that we will likely see increasing in the years to come, and will have a dramatic impact on the marine environment. Yet even in the same week as this news, the oil industry press was calling for even more fossil fuel exploitation in the Barents.
David Attenborough was also at Davos, trying to focus minds on the reality of the climate emergency. He highlighted that despite more people being aware of the issues that affect our planet than ever before, paradoxically, “there has never been a time when more people are out of touch with the natural world".
This is undoubtedly the case. But I am encouraged to see many young people taking the lead in climate campaigns across the country. The Ullapool Sea Savers and Sunnyside Primary School in Glasgow were integral in a recent campaign, which culminated with the Greens winning a legislative ban of the mechanical harvesting of kelp, saving Scotland’s kelp forests.
We have also seen a growing number of schoolchildren across the globe engaging in Friday climate strikes. Indeed The National recently reported on Holly Gillibrand, a 13-year-old pupil at Lochaber High School. Holly is one of more than 20,000 students, across 270 cities around the world who have held such strikes.
Holly told The National “I am striking because we are running out of time. Thousands of children around the world should not be having to miss classes because of our leaders’ inability to treat the climate crisis as a crisis.”
This is a stark warning that politicians and policy makers cannot be allowed to ignore.
In the Scottish Parliament there is still significant resistance to taking the steps required to ensure that Scotland plays its part in tackling climate change.
Since returning to parliament this year SNP, Tory, Labour and Lib Dem MSPs have joined forces to vote down Green proposals to step up Scotland’s ambitions. Whatever long term targets they set, they are still ignoring the evidence about immediate changes we need and continuing to back multi billion pound tax breaks for the oil and gas industry.
Our research shows that a just transition to a renewables based economy could create hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country, yet it appears that the other parties are happy to throw the oil and gas industry a bung, and turn a blind eye to the real damage that is being caused.
The evidence is clear. We have little more than a decade to avoid a climate catastrophe. It is vital that every country plays its part in addressing this crisis, as nowhere will be spared the effects if inaction prevails.
The Scottish Government’s Climate Bill, which is currently receiving scrutiny in the Scottish Parliament, is not strong enough and fails to respond to the latest science coming from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
That is why the Scottish Greens have called for a Climate Emergency Bill, which would ensure that radical emissions cuts are made across our economy, protecting Scotland’s future.
Recognising that there is a climate emergency, and taking the necessary steps to play our part in seeking to mitigate its worst effects, are essential. Scotland can lead the way and inspire others to take those steps.