The pace of technological change seems to be accelerating fast.
Little over a century ago, powered flight had not been invented. Since then, we have taken to the skies, travelled to space and the moon, and sent probes to Mars. It is hard to imagine a world without the internet, just two decades or so after it went global. Further radical transformations as a result of artificial intelligence are on the way. Sometimes it can all feel a little overwhelming.
But there is one revolution that is being driven not just by human ingenuity, but by necessity. The need to switch from fossil fuels to a zero-carbon economy to prevent dangerous climate change is a clear imperative that the world has belatedly come to realise.
So the pace of change will be quicker than we are used to dealing with and so, for some, it may be even more overwhelming.
The Scottish Government yesterday set out a bill to require emissions in 2050 to be 10 per cent of those in 1990, although it stressed it would strive to hit net zero emissions “as soon as possible”. There will be those who will say this is too quick, while others complain it is too slow. But, while the pace is subject to debate, let there be no doubt about the direction of travel. And, just as the UK stole a march on the rest of the world at the dawn of the coal-powered Industrial Revolution, being at the forefront of the renewable revolution holds out the prospect of considerable economic rewards – on top of the benefits for the climate.
As has been pointed out, Scotland is extremely well placed to both adapt to and take advantage of this enormous change because of the vast amounts of wind and wave energy on our doorstep. Last year saw the first day Britain had gone without electricity produced by coal since the 1880s, electric cars are here, hybrid and electric planes are coming. So Scotland should be ambitious, it should be a world-leader, out of self-interest if nothing else. We also need, with some urgency, to build industries to provide a long-term replacement for North Sea oil, which is still extremely important to this country’s economy but which will gradually diminish in the coming decades.
Unveiling the Udraft Climate Change Bill, Scottish environment minister Roseanna Cunningham described the fight against climate change as “one of the defining challenges of our age”. We must rise to it.