Perhaps the worst part is knowing it’s our own fault. International experts agree that human influence is the dominant cause of recent temperature rises, driven by emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide from the likes of industry, power generation, agriculture and transport.
We have been warned in no uncertain terms that continuing along this part will lead to “irreversible” and “catastrophic” climate change, with a 2C rise in average global temperature since pre-industrial times agreed as the crucial tipping point.
Most of us are taking the threat seriously because we can see its effects. The evidence continues to stack up. Last year was the warmest on record globally, and marked the third consecutive year where a new record temperature was set. The latest record also meant that 16 of the 17 warmest years have occurred since 2000.
Many parts of the world, including Scotland and the UK, are experiencing increasingly extreme weather, with a rise in storms, flooding and droughts. Ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising and oceans are getting more acidic. We’ve even been told earth is facing its “sixth mass extinction” of animal species.
The warnings may have taken a while to sink in but moves such as the historic Paris Agreement suggest the panic button has finally been pressed at an international level.
Here in Scotland we have some of the most ambitious emissions reduction targets in the world, and they’re due to get tougher. The existing target – for a cut of at least 42 per cent by 2020 – was met and surpassed six years early. The latest aim is for a 66 per cent drop by 2032, which will involve a stepping up of effort across many sectors.
In case you didn’t know, it’s currently Climate Week in Scotland – an initiative dreamed up by ministers to raise awareness of climate change and encourage a shift to eco-friendly living. It will see a huge range of green events rolled out across the country, from talks and film screenings to bike workshops and local food showcases. Organisers include local authorities, environmental organisations and community groups.
The Scottish Government is even putting its money where its mouth is, offering staff activities such as free bicycle safety tests, a talk on beekeeping and the chance to test-drive electric vehicles.
Elsewhere, Aberdeenshire council’s ranger service has organised a 21-mile cycle-ride, while there are swap shops being held in a number of places. Unfortunately we’ve missed Glasgow’s Dinner in a Dumpster, but there’s still time to get involved in their Bricks4kidz Lego activities and water pipe building challenge.
There’s also an interactive art installation, Climavore: On Tidal Zones, being staged on the shores of Portree, on the Isle of Skye. At low tide visitors are able to sample freshly harvested seaweed and shellfish, cooked by local chefs.
A full list of events can be found on the Keep Scotland Beautiful website. But you don’t have to stick to organised activities to help care for the planet. You can plan your own beach clean, upcycling project or clothes swapping party. Whether it’s turning off the tap when you brush your teeth, cutting down on plastic waste or leaving your car at home, every little helps.