Climate change: Think global warming is a Third World problem? Think again – Kenny MacAskill MP

Many years ago I was visiting Georgia in the Caucasus, a parliamentary exchange also facilitating some research for a book I was researching.

Light from the Bootleg wildfire near Bly, Oregon illuminates smoke in the sky (Picture: Payton Bruni/AFP via Getty Images)

I recall being shocked at the poverty there which seemed Third World, as it was then described, though now more accurately termed the Developing World. For whilst it may have been Stalin’s birthplace, when the Soviets departed it was stripped bare of what little it had.

Something discomfited me though about my thoughts and I couldn’t put my finger on just why. After all I’d seen far worse in North Africa or on television in Asia.

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Then I realised that what was different was that I’d been shocked because they were European and the housing schemes could have been in Scotland.

Had the faces been black or brown I’ve no doubt I might have been more inured to it. I felt ashamed as poverty and hardship are wrong wherever they lie and irrespective of race or creed.

But the recent tragedies of fire and flood brought about by climate change put me in mind of that. For sure, in recent years we’ve seen fires rage in Greece, as well as in Australia and California.

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But in the main, like abject poverty, I’ve always associated it more with the Developing World facing environmental hardship, along with their economic plight.

The village street in Mayschofl, Germany, was swept away by flooding and numerous houses in the village were destroyed or severely damaged. (Picture: Boris Roessler/dpa via AP)

But no more. The floods in Germany and other parts of Western Europe, along with the infernos on the west coast of North America, have put the effects of climate change in the heart of the Developed World.

This was in the powerhouse of the German, if not European, economy, yet parts were swept away and all its wealth couldn’t protect it. Likewise Vancouver tops the table as one of the most desirable cities to live in, yet a few hundred kilometers up the road, towns were burnt to the ground and lives lost.

Climate change is happening but its impact and damage isn’t restricted to poorer parts or the Developing World.

It’ll be far worse there for sure, as they don’t have the infrastructure to protect or the resources to respond, but we’re not immune.

The recent deluges across Scotland were severe enough, but what if next time they replicate the torrents that fell on the Continent.

We’re basking in a mini-heatwave which we find warm enough but what if it gets hotter still and lasts longer. Don’t think our latitude will protect us as Lapland has been basking in a heatwave too.

So climate change’s here and is happening. It’s not going only going to be an issue for the Developing World but for all humanity. There are soon to be areas not just in the Indian sub-continent but in the southern American states where life can no longer be sustained given heat and humidity. And in our own land risks will increase.

The United Nations’ Cop26 climate summit has work to do, electric cars alone just won’t be enough. It’ll have to be more profound and it won’t be easy. But this isn’t a Third World issue, it’s a global one.

Kenny MacAskill is the Alba Party MP for East Lothian

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