Neil Mackay: Should we trust the leaders who let us down in Covid to guide us through climate change?

MAYBE Mother Nature is kind not cruel. Maybe rather than red in the teeth and claws, she’s more into the nudge theory when it comes to humans. Perhaps we can see Covid as his gentle way of pushing us – one last chance, one last reminder, to pull ourselves together in the face of the climate crisis.

If humans used the spirit we were born with, we would see Covid not only as a running race to tackle the much larger global catastrophe of environmental degradation, but also as a wake-up call. Gather together now, nature seems to say, for it is almost too late.

Yet look at how our governments have handled Covid. Disastrously. What hope for the planet if they cannot act intelligently in the face of the virus?

Even from the most forgiving point of view, the response to Covid from the UK and Scottish governments has been pathetic. Few countries have fared better, but we do not live under these governments, so it is in Edinburgh and London that we must reserve our anger and our criticisms, otherwise we will engage in a simple partisan deviation.

Scotland is now the European capital of the Covid. Some brag. We have six of the 10 European regions with the highest case rates. Around 24,000 people now test positive every week. No wonder Andy Burnham couldn’t contain his anger at Nicola Sturgeon’s Manchester travel ban – an act that seemed to put politics above public health.

Don’t look for a better deal in London. Boris Johnson’s planned lifting of Covid restrictions is causing panic among government scientists who fear he will build new “variant factories”. Cases in the UK are at their highest level since January. New Health Secretary Sajid Javid says we’ll just have to learn to live with Covid. For the Conservatives – a party that sees empathy as a weakness – it’s the money that counts, not the people.

Read more: We said we would change the world after Covid but nothing has changed and nothing will change

Both governments have shown a systemic inability to cope with the crisis. They presented, covered up, amazed and brazen their disastrous policies which failed to adequately protect people from day one. Now, as we stumble toward an “end” of the pandemic, it looks like both governments have just given up on the fight altogether.

And what are these people supposed to lead the fight against climate change? If it weren’t for such a terrifying prospect, it would be darkly comical. But Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon will both wash off the shadow of an Irish shamrock in November when the United Nations climate summit is held in Glasgow – bathed in the fake emerald glow of bogus rhetoric and empty promises about it. ‘environment.

Whether there is a difference in character between Mrs Sturgeon and Mr Johnson does not matter. Mrs Sturgeon might be a decent woman (personally I think she is), and Mr Johnson might be a reckless and dangerous charlatan (personally I think he is), but all two are politicians through and through, and politicians trade on falsehood. Is Ms. Sturgeon an environmentalist? Yes, I’m sure deep down she cares about the planet. Does Mr. Johnson? No, he doesn’t care about environmentalism. But what is the real difference? Neither is doing anything substantial when it comes to tackling the climate crisis. The political waffle doesn’t count – nor hide behind a lack of delegated powers.

We should already switch from Covid to climate. The Earth is burning. Something happened last week that sums up where we are as a species. As Canada baked in unimaginable heat, the town of Lytton recorded the country’s highest temperature – 49.6 ° C. These are the Saudi temperatures in Canada. Soon after, Lytton burned to the ground as wildfires engulfed the city. About 500 people died in the Canadian heatwave – although using the word “heatwave” is tantamount to describing a typhoon as a downpour.

As Canada burned, the Gulf of Mexico caught fire. The sea. Has caught fire. State-owned oil company Pemex blamed a gas leak from an undersea pipeline. The footage looked like something from a horror movie – a fiery eye of flames roaring across the surface of the ocean, as if an elevator to hell had opened. Wealthy residents are leaving Karachi in Pakistan as the heat becomes unbearable. Arctic sea ice is melting; temperatures in Antarctica have reached 18.3 degrees.

Only a fool would see these events as concerns on the other side of the world and unimportant here in Britain. When the sea rises, our cities will drown too.

A study by Scottish councils, universities, the NHS and infrastructure and environmental bodies like the Strathclyde Partnership for Transport and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, found that two million people in the Greater Glasgow face serious disruption from global warming unless billions more are invested in protecting homes, businesses and transport. Cities built on rivers like the Clyde will be crisis areas in the future due to increasing heat waves, flash floods and droughts. Expect more wild flooding like this weekend, but with devastating consequences.

Up to 410 million people worldwide currently face a future where they will soon be living in areas less than two meters above sea level – and are clearly at risk of seeing their homes disappear underwater.

Read more: Scotland can lead the way in the green energy industry

Fossil fuel companies have known for 60 years that their behavior destroys the environment. There is no difference between Big Tobacco and Big Oil – it’s just that one kills people individually, the other kills people collectively. Energy companies were warned by their own scientists decades ago. Instead of taking action, they indulged in disinformation and spawned the climate denial industry.

There is a new word for it: the crime of “ecocide”. Those responsible for knowingly endangering the planet should perhaps be seen as candidates for prosecution in international criminal tribunals, summoned like the Hague war crimes tribunal.

We cannot just blame our politicians for this. We elected them, after all. They are the expression of our will. The terrible truth is that most people don’t care enough. We’re too short-sighted, so we’ll leave it to our children. They’re going to damn us for that.

Today we are preparing for the Roaring Twenties – the party after the pandemic. It will indeed be a strange evening: a dance to the sound of the string quartet on the deck of the Titanic; a mass distraction as the sea straddles the ship’s list prow.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald


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