Leader comment: Time to take the heat out of global warming

It can be convenient to block out the wider picture of global warming especially while enjoying sun-drenched, balmy days, sometimes stretching out into an Indian summer. In Scotland, we grab whatever sunshine we can get.

The Scottish Government is correct to pursue renewable energy, but there are issues over continuous supply of power. Picture: John Devlin

But the announcement from the World Meteorological Organisation that 2016 is very likely to be the hottest since records began, indeed will be a new high for the third year running, should make us sit up and take notice.

That 16 out of the 17 warmest years on record will have occurred this century would appear to point to the very strong possibility that the Earth is getting warmer.

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The United Nations agency, which released its report at the global climate summit in Morocco, said the most significant factor is carbon dioxide emissions generated by people and industry.

Indeed Petteri Taakas, the agency’s general secretary, did not temper his words when he warned so-called “once in a generation” extreme events such as heatwaves and flooding were becoming regular occurrences.

But there are still those who argue against taking action.

The first argument is that the findings are too obscure and that changes in the world’s climate are not a direct result of man-made emissions; that whilst it may be disappointing ice caps are melting more rapidly, there is no data going back hundreds of years to show it has not happened before.

There is also the argument that Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom should not try to be at the vanguard, because quite simply, whatever we do would merely be a drop in the ocean.

But the UN agency’s report comes on the day the Global Carbon Project issued a report saying global CO2 emissions were stable for the third year in a row.

The findings from the international team of earth system scientists state that the pause in emissions growth was being driven by the move away from coal by the US and China, the world’s two largest producers of CO2.

Global warming has potential for catastrophic consequences for all of us.

What this latest report shows is bigger countries can be willing to use other power sources, showing rapidly industrialising nations such as India that there is a way of operating with fewer emissions released.

The Scottish Government is right to focus on renewables providing a boost to the Scottish economy, and is right to do as much as it can to get energy from these sources.

If this is not done, then it hardly leaves us in a position to persuade others to do likewise.

But the problem with renewables in Scotland is they cannot always deliver, with our reliance on wind rather than sun.

We could very quickly need supplies from other countries, such as nuclear power produced in England, for some of our baseload.

However, that should not deter us from leaving a greener legacy for future generations.