What is the Climate Emergency?
The future will be very challenging if you look at the climate projections modelled by the global scientific community.
If we continue to live life as we do today and don’t change our behaviours or actions, the global average temperatures on earth will rise 2-4 Degrees above pre-industrial levels in the 1900’s.
That might not sound like much, but that’s an average. In reality some parts of our home planet will be warmer and some parts might be colder than that. The poles for example could be 6-8 Degrees warmer and that would have a massive impact on the earth’s weather, the jet stream, the reflective capacity of the earth to bounce radiation back into space.
More frequent and heavier storm events, floods, droughts are expected. Some islands around the world will become uninhabitable as salt water rises and makes food impossible to grow and land to be submerged. Glacier melt rates will accelerate and nations dependent on them for fresh water may have to relocate to survive.
Forest fires like those recently in California and Australia will increase in frequency and size, and the melting of land-based ice from Greenland and Antarctica will change sea levels and could also alter deep ocean currents too.
In Argyll and Bute, the changes we are most likely to see are sea level rise, leading to flooding of low-lying areas and islands, hotter summers, and increased rainfall, leading to more frequent landslides like the one pictured on the Rest and Be Thankful.
The diagram below indicates the pace of change required. Put simply, we need to move from our ‘historical’ path on global emissions of greenhouse gases to zero. In Scotland our target set in law and approved by the Scottish Government is to achieve the necessary reductions in our country’s emissions by 2045.
What is Net Zero?
By zero, scientists actually mean something called ‘Net-Zero’. This is because whilst we can stop burning coal, oil and petrol, we cannot yet fly without burning kerosene or grow food without applying fertilisers, or buy goods without some emissions to make and transport them. As such the future needs to include actions that compensate for these remaining emissions and find ways to balance to a true ‘Net-Zero’. In Scotland this will be done by planting more trees, repairing and restoring damage to peatlands, and even growing fuel crops to burn and capture the gasses which are then locked underground in old oil-gas fields in the North Sea.
Emissions previously and currently released into the atmosphere will change the climate even if we stop emitting tomorrow. As such Scotland and all other countries need to Adapt to changes in climate as well as Mitigating our emissions to minimise further changes.
If you wish to learn more about climate science you can participate in Keep Scotland Beautiful’s Climate Literacy courses, or look at other links from trusted sources such as:
Argyll & Bute’s Impact
Data from the National Records of Scotland indicate that the population of Argyll and Bute is about 85,570. UK average emissions per capita are currently 5.5tCO2e/person/year. So as a simple baseline, that’s 470,635 tonnes of CO2e per year, mainly from heating and powering homes, travelling by car, bus, train, boat or plane, managing our household waste, from what we eat and also from what we buy as goods and even services such as schools, hospitals, etc.
This doesn’t include emissions from land use, local industry, construction, tourism, and other sources such as refrigerant gases from car air-conditioning or shop freezers, etc. Nor from any wildfires or changes in marine environments.
The chart below shows the distribution of emissions by sector for the UK and the direction necessary for these sectors to get to zero:
All sectors need to reduce. For some this will be easier than others. Scotland has already made great progress in decarbonising the electricity generation network and also on reducing materials going to landfill that would break down and create Methane.
The two biggest carbon sectors in Scotland which have yet to show significant reduction in emissions are Heating and Transport. Because of this, the Scottish Government is encouraging a shift away from petrol and diesel cars, vans, buses, trains and lorries to electricity or hydrogen, and home energy efficiencies will need to increase to EPC-C rating or higher through shifts in the fuels we use for heating. Oil and gas to electricity (via heat pumps) and hydrogen.
Everyone in Argyll and Bute eats, we all heat our homes, many of us drive cars and most households fill their bins each week for the council to whisk away and do something with.
What is Climate Justice?
The world’s poorest nations are living on the frontline of the climate emergency. Climate change isn’t a future threat for them – it’s already a matter of life and death. Extreme weather events like heatwaves, droughts and floods are becoming more frequent and intense with every passing year. This comes on top of huge debt burdens carried by many countries, leaving their capacity to deal with crises like climate change and the global pandemic hollowed out. A simple fact lies at the heart of the climate crisis: those who have done the least to cause it are those who are suffering most. As a hub of the industrial revolution, Scotland bears a huge historic responsibility alongside other rich nations for fuelling climate change. Even today, knowing what we know about the impact of our emissions, we still use more than our fair share of the planet’s resources. The most vulnerable among the world’s poorest communities, mainly women and people of colour, are paying the highest price for our failure to act sooner.
In 2012, Scotland established a Climate Justice fund to help the people who are disproportionately suffering due to climate change. However, the fund has been frozen at £3 million for the past 3 years, despite extreme weather events only increasing in frequency during this time. Our partner group, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, has been campaigning to persuade the Scottish Government to increase this fund so that Scotland can pay its fair share of the damages caused by its emissions.
Information: Tayvallich Sustainability Plan, 2021