THE decision of the Obama Administration to regulate carbon dioxide emissions is as welcome as it is overdue. Phyllis Cuttino of the independent Pew Environment Group welcomed the announcement by putting it in the global context to which it belongs. She stated that it 'reclaims the US role on the international stage as a leader'.
But alas, the temptation to look to others for leadership is – in this case more than any other – a sin against nature. As civil society in Scotland moves with one voice to combat climate change, it does so heralding an opportunity for this nation to show its own particular form of leadership. The Climate Change (Scotland) Bill, introduced at tail end of last year, provides the blueprint for what could be the most resilient climate legislation in the world.
That such a feat is within grasp is a testament to the work of various MSP's and the broad coalition of civic bodies that have campaigned tirelessly for action on what is the greatest peril facing not just mankind but also the rest of the ecosphere. Made up of over 40 organisations, from trade unions to international development charities, faith as well as women's groups, the Scottish Stop Climate Chaos coalition represents a supporter base of well over 1.5 million individuals. As such is perfectly placed to take the collective concerns of Scottish citizens to our policy making bodies.
At a time when the attention of world media has been focused on the economy, it is poignant to remember that the Stern report into climate change predicted that a 2C rise in global temperatures would result in a staggering 20 per cent fall in gross global production by the middle of the century, the effects of which would be uncharted in terms of modern world history.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC), consisting of the leading international authorities on the issue, has forecast that a further 1C rise would lead to around two billion of the world population facing acute water shortages. Conflict in areas of already existent ethnic and territorial discord is, as the case of Darfur is constant reminder, just one of the many results of inaction that we will all have to deal with.
The statistics are incredible. They point to a social catharsis as well as to environmental destruction. Temperantia, meaning moderation or self-restraint, was one of the four great cardinal virtues of the classical world. In modern times, this doctrine of 'holding back' became despised. But with the ecological crisis, it is now seen increasingly as the platform from which a new environmental and social ethic can take shape – reminding humans once more of their stewardship on earth. The Faustian god of wanton power and dominion will no doubt reap more havoc over our shared natural habitat. But the imperative to act is one that none of us, whether in our public or private capacity, can afford to ignore.
What gives us hope is that there is time to put things right. In the Muslim narrative, Prophet Mohammed is reported to have said 'if the Hour comes while one of you holds a palm seedling within his hand and he is able to plant and cultivate it, then let him do so'.
Today's Stop Climate Chaos rally at the Scottish Parliament will be calling for a statuary annual 3 per cent reduction in emissions in Scotland, leading to an overall reduction of at least 80 per cent by 2050. This is a fair share of our global responsibility. Global leadership may, after all, be closer to home than we think.