Climate change: Politicians still need to wake up to this deadly threat – Scotsman comment

When Svante Arrhenius, a Nobel Prize-winning Swedish chemist dubbed the ‘father of climate change science’, first realised – in the 1890s – that greenhouse gases would cause the Earth’s temperature to rise, he thought it would be a good thing.

Three people died when this train derailed near Stonehaven after debris was washed on to the tracks amid heavy rain (Picture: John Devlin)

Arrhenius suggested people could “indulge in the pleasant belief that our descendants, albeit after many generations, might live under a milder sky and in less barren surroundings than is our lot at present”.

It was not until the 1970s and 1980s, when people began to notice temperatures were rising, that this area of science became the subject of serious study. And it was quickly realised that the effects would be catastrophic.

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Droughts, searing heatwaves and wildfires on a scale never seen before would be accompanied by sea-level rise, violent storms, heavy rain and flooding, among other deadly threats.

The Met Office is now warning that climate change is set to bring record-breaking rainfall and high temperatures to the UK.

Extreme weather poses a direct threat to human lives but also an indirect one because of its effects on key infrastructure like railways. A report by Network Rail into the Stonehaven derailment, in which three people died after debris was washed on to the tracks amid heavy rain, concluded climate change was affecting the network more quickly than expected, it was “simply not economically viable” to strengthen all trackside earthworks that needed to be and “we expect there will still be earthwork failures as a result of challenging weather”.

Climate change is a pressing and deadly threat that our politicians still do not take seriously enough. That must change.

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