Short-term thinking won’t halt climate change - Readers' Letters

Demand for energy, water supplies and natural resources depends on population size. Yet no consideration appears to have been taken at COP26 that in the past 30 years the global population has doubled, putting immense strain on the natural environment, and contributing to global warming.
Alok Sharma, President of the Cop26 climate summit, speaks at the closing plenary of the COP26 summitAlok Sharma, President of the Cop26 climate summit, speaks at the closing plenary of the COP26 summit
Alok Sharma, President of the Cop26 climate summit, speaks at the closing plenary of the COP26 summit

Even the existence of people adds to global emissions and warming. Recent research has shown that if a couple have more than two children, every additional child irrevocably adds methane to the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.

The urgency of the situation cannot be overestimated, when a recent Indian government report estimates that by 2030, 600 million people would not even have access to clean drinking water. The massive population of north India has drained a high percentage of its groundwater acquifers which cannot be replenished whilst global warming from methane and carbon dioxide emissions is melting glaciers on the Tibetan plateau. These feed the major rivers in Asia, also threatening fresh water flows for hundreds of millions of people in China.

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Simultaneously, the polar icecaps are melting, causing sea levels to rise by an estimated two metres by 2100, building immense pressure on resources as populations living at sea level begin to migrate, relocate and rebuild.

Whatever, the freshwater crisis continues, exacerbated by mining to meet demand for fossil, non-fossil and renewable energy. Not only coal, but cobalt, uranium and lithium mining residues are contaminating drinking water, whilst fossil fuel and coal combustion and unrestricted flare gas from oilfield exploitation heats the atmosphere.

A fundamental rethink of how governments work, to abandon short-term thinking and allow decade-long policies to curb population growth and demand for resources, is needed, not only locally but globally. Priority must also be given to reducing pollution from mining activities and oil and gas exploration. If none of these cardinal issues are addressed, “events” could spiral out of control, even within this decade.

Elizabeth Marshall, Edinburgh

Sharma’s tears

Scientists and economists who accept that the climate changes but resist global warming hysterics knew that Glasgow’s green jolly was in trouble when the UK government and COP26 president Alok Sharma made ending the use of coal the event’s central target. When push came to shove China and India had to support the developing world’s need for cheap, reliable power.

As India’s Bhupender Yadav rightly said: “Developing countries have a right to their fair share of the global carbon budget and are entitled to the responsible use of fossil fuels within this scope. How can anyone expect them to make promises about phasing out coal?” The UK’s position was unrealistic and in the end the US brokered a viable deal with China and India.

In spite of Sharma’s tears and howls of protest from the usual suspects COP26 wasn’t a failure. I thought side deals on methane, deforestation, electric cars, etc were very productive.

Dr John Cameron, St Andrews, Fife

Snap happy

Brian Monteith rightly praises Nicola Sturgeon for her stunning 84-selfie tour of COP26 (Scotsman, 15 November).

I'm not sure what lasting impact gifting a can of Scotland's national hangover cure (Irn-Bru) to US Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio Cortez would do to her or the FM'S reputation in the US but somehow her comment "OMG, this tastes just like a Puerto Rican soda” sums up the whole excruciating exercise.

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A bigger question is surely where were Anas Sarwar and Douglas Ross? Surely they could have popped in with some Tunnocks cakes or slices of free range haggis to grab a few cameras, highlight the SNP's miserable record on climate change targets and Nicola Sturgeon’s need to feed, in the absence of any red meat, some minced morsels to her dwindling band of believers.

Is it any wonder that, in a week where the Yes vote declined to 47 per cent, the SNP are still favourites to win a landslide of MPs in the next general elelction?

Allan Sutherland, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire

Lights stay on

i was surprised that Brian Monteith, in his “defence of Sturgeon’s COP show” article, did not acknowledge that at least the First Minister has answered his question “How will lights stay on when wind does not blow?” (Scotsman, 1 November).

Where every engineering expert at our Scottish Universties failed to provide an explanation, the SNP/Green Alliance have decided that a new 900MW gas fired power plant at Peterhead will replace Hunterson B to keep the lights on when there is insufficient wind.

Such a policy also means the endorsement of the Cambo Oil Field as it is impossible to operate a gas fired plant without a supply of the fossil fuel required to produce electricity over the next 50 years.

Scottish energy consumers should also note the First Minister’s support for the retention of gas boilers in Scotland provided they operate on a 20 per cent hydrogen/ 80 per cent domestic gas mix. That should mean that Sally Thomas of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations can relax over the £11 billion cost arising from the policy outlined by Patrick Harvie to Holyrood to replace association gas boilers, since the revised policy means air pumps are ditched for the next 50 years.

Ian Moir, Castle Douglas, Dumfries and Galloway

Watt’s what

I was surprised to see that James Watt, and he alone, is blamed for inventing the steam engine in 1776, thereby precipitating global warming (Letters, 12 November).

In fact, the first steam-driven engine was invented by Thomas Savery and patented in 1698. The principle of using steam condensation was proven by Savery who made and sold several engines. Thomas Newcomen, in partnership with Savery improved the engine to effectively pump mine water. By agreement with Savery, the principle was separately patented in Scotland in 1699 by James Smith, who also developed the capability of the engine.

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Subsequently, James Watt adapted Newcommen’s design to work under steam pressure as well as condensation. Watt’s big invention was the separate steam condenser, which greatly improved the thermal efficiency of the machine, thereby reducing CO2 for the same work done. He also invented the flyball speed governor, which improved safety. James Watt and Mathew Bolton, working together, then really got the Industrial Revolution moving.

Also on the saving emissions side was another Scot, James Blyth of Maryykirk near Montrose, who in 1887, built the world’s first wind-driven electricity generator. One of his wind turbines provided lighting to the Montrose Lunatic Asylum for 30 years.

Maybe a Scot, 134 years ago, actually did invent the antidote to global warming. Let’s take a balanced view.

Bill Graham, Forres, Moray

EU referendum

Robert Farquharson (Letters, 13 November) lists one of the benefits of independence as being able to "make a democratic choice about rebuilding our relations with the EU”, which I take to mean a referendum on joining.

However, did the First Minister not state that there would be no referendum on EU membership, because voting for Scotland to leave the UK would be taken as agreeing to seek admission to the EU?

This is important because a successful application would mean the EU frontier across the island of Great Britain, and there can be little doubt that many voting to remain in the UK in 2014 did so partly to avoid such a frontier, which would certainly have occurred because Scotland leaving the UK would have meant also leaving the EU.

The same situation, albeit reversed, would occur were Scotland to leave the UK and join the EU. So, would an independent Scotland hold a referendum on joining the EU or not?

Jane Ann Liston, St Andrews, Fife

Insular attitudes

Recently we had a letter from Tim Flinn (11 November) which indicated the economic impact of Brexit was inconsequential to him because voting for Brexit, for him, was “not about cash”. Now we hear from Andrew Kemp (Letters, 15 November) that he wants Audit Scotland to investigate “dubious budgetary manipulation”, following a contribution from Scotland to the climate justice fund.

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Mr Kemp says that international aid is reserved to the UK government, but doesn't mention that they have recently cut it by £4 billion, with serious effects on poorer countries and communities. Also, if he bothered to check, he'd find that International Development is a legitimate part of the Scottish Government's activities and has been for many years. Funnily enough, there was no great outrage when aid for Malawi was initiated by the Jack McConnell administration, but we all know why this is exercising Mr Kemp now.

However, these 'I'm alright Jack" and insular attitudes don't reflect well on how we should looking to help less well-off people, both here and abroad.

Gill Turner, Edinburgh

Helpline hassle

This morning I have just spent 50 minutes waiting on the Covid vaccination helpline to eventually get through to an assistant who can't help as they are unable to get on to the system due to a major technical issue.

I have been locked out of my online account since the Covid booster appointment I had for the beginning of this month was cancelled by the clinic.

There are plenty of adverts telling us to take up the booster appointments but how are we meant to achieve that?

Lesley H Smith, Edinburgh

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