“Crisis is throw your hands up. Emergency is roll your sleeves up.”

Quote from Rachel Reese, Mayor, Nelson City Council, New Zealand

The Scottish Government and Orkney Islands Council along with many other local authorities joined in declaring a climate emergency earlier on this year. 

Sea levels have been rising for over a century but this has rapidly increased in the last 25 years. The oceans are warming, glaciers are melting and massive ice sheets at both poles are disappearing.

Climate Change and its Impact on the Heart of Neolithic Orkney

7 million acres in Siberia and 2.4 million acres in Alaska have been burning. This unprecedented amount of burning in the Arctic  has sent a massive cloud of smoke and soot from Siberia across the region.

In June, fires in northern Russia, Alaska, Greenland and Canada released a record 50 megatons of CO2.

In the Brazilian sector of the Amazon Rain forest deliberate man made fires encouraged by the political regime is sending toxic smoke across cities.

Amazon fires

Image by NASAs Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens,

The map above shows active fire detections in Brazil as observed by Terra and Aqua MODIS between August 15-22, 2019.

The Amazon represents over half of the planet’s remaining rainforests   with an estimated 390 billion individual trees divided into 16,000 species but more than 1,330 square miles of the Amazon rainforest have been lost since January this year.

This is a climate emergency.

So how are governments responding – including our own one here in Scotland ?


In Brazil, with the threat of the loss of a lucrative EU trade deal, President Bolsonaro who encouraged the fires in the first place has now called on the military to try and combat them. The massive forests of the Amazon normally would absorb huge amounts of carbon. The reverse is now happening . The trees in the Amazon contain up to 140 billion tonnes of carbon. Accelerated deforestation resulting in a 85% increase in forest fires is sending smoke and ash across the region. But losing large swathes of the Amazon rain forest doesn’t just affect South America – it affects the whole planet.

The UK

In 2008, the UK was the world’s 9th greatest producer of man-made carbon emissions, producing around 1.8% of the global total generated from fossil fuels. That same year the Climate Change Act was passed. It commits the UK to a 80% cut in climate emissions by 2050 with an intermediate target of between 34% by 2020.

Environmentalist Groups including Friends of the Earth want greater action by governments and have their own plan:

  • Aim for 100% clean energy.
  • Invest in green and affordable transport.
  • Double tree cover to tackle climate change and support nature.
  • Ban fracking and stop using dirty fuels.
  • Fund huge scale insulation and eco-heating schemes.
  • Stop backing harmful infrastructure – like airport expansion.
  • Pay our fair share to help vulnerable countries.

Scottish Government

In Scotland the Government has funded the Big Climate Conversations. Last week I went to the The Big Climate Conversation in Orkney. 

Big Climate conversation

Members of the Orkney public attended who as individuals have an incredible amount of expertise in environmental issues. The event was so constrained that the opportunity to capitalise on the knowledge and experience gathered in one place was mostly wasted. It became a tick box exercise where these experts views were limited to ranking pre – existing lists of priorities.

Funding is being placed by the Scottish Government in important projects to mitigate the effects of climate change. Amongst the range of measures  are:  £11 million to restore degraded peatlands; a farmer-led initiative to drive low-carbon, environmentally sustainable farming; setting a legally binding target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 at the latest with Scotland becoming carbon neutral by 2040; and the low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme which has guaranteed EU match funding up to Autumn 2021.

In with the mix of measures by both Governments are actions which may make you wonder if climate change is an actual emergency to them. The Scottish Government aims to increase flights into and out of Scotland – encouraging air travel. The UK Government has issued yet more licences to extract oil and gas from UK waters. Fossil fuels including gas and coal have a VAT rating of 5% but a rise to 20% is to go on  solar panels and also battery storage from 1st of October 2019.

Baffling isn’t it?

As human beings, we are vulnerable to confusing the unprecedented with the improbable. In our everyday experience, if something has never happened before, we are generally safe in assuming it is not going to happen in the future, but the exceptions can kill you and climate change is one of those exceptions. Al Gore

An International Day of Action for the Amazon has been called for Thursday, September 5th.


Reporter: Fiona Grahame

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2 replies »

  1. Mr Bolsonaro and his ilk, don’t appear to realise that – this is their world too. It’s the world in which (hopefully) they, their children, and their grandchildren, will need to live.
    This short term, self-centred, money grabbing, view of how to live on this planet – doesn’t work.
    There is a book by Ben Elton, called ‘This Other Eden’, in which rich people have ‘eco bubbles’ made for themselves to live in, as the world, which they have sold down the river, falls to pieces. The book shows that this is no way to live.
    And it was written in the 1980’s. We have had plenty of warning, not been prepared to make the effort to pay attention, and now……………..

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