Sturgeon: Climate change will ‘overwhelm and overpower us’ without more action

The outgoing Scottish First Minister urged political leaders across the world to take the issue more seriously.

Katrine Bussey
Monday 20 March 2023 17:51 GMT
Global warming ‘will overwhelm and overpower us’ without further action being taken, Nicola Sturgeon has warned (Jane Barlow/PA)
Global warming ‘will overwhelm and overpower us’ without further action being taken, Nicola Sturgeon has warned (Jane Barlow/PA)

Nicola Sturgeon has appealed to world leaders to take the threat of climate change “much, much more seriously”, insisting that without more action being taken global warming will “overwhelm and overpower us”.

The outgoing Scottish First Minister said a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was “another very, very loud wake-up call” about the need to act against rising temperatures.

Ms Sturgeon insisted: “We’ve got to start taking it much more seriously or future generations will never ever forgive us, and rightly so.”

However, as she spoke out, she was challenged to ensure the Scottish Government does more to meet its own climate change targets – with campaigners at Oxfam Scotland calling for Holyrood ministers to oppose any new licences issued by the UK Government for oil and gas extraction.

If we stay on the trajectory we are on right now globally, then climate change is going to overwhelm and overpower us. It is going to win

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister

Jamie Livingstone, the head of Oxfam Scotland, said there could be “no more mealy-mouthed meekness” on this.

He added: “The planet is on fire, now is not the time to light another match. Humanity’s future lays in decisions taken today.

“Scottish Ministers must choose the right path and oppose any new licences issued by the UK Government.”

His comments came as the IPCC report warned there is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to lower greenhouse gas emissions, and thus secure a safe and liveable future for people across the planet.

Scientists in the report, which was described as a “survival guide for humanity”, said there needed to be drastic and deep cuts to emissions in order to keep the average global temperature below 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

Every fraction of warming escalates the severity of climate effects such as heatwaves, heavy rainfall and flooding, they added, with new evidence showing even small changes can wreak havoc on communities.

Ms Sturgeon, who was speaking at an RSA event in London, was asked if the battle against climate change was being won.

The outgoing Scottish First Minister responded: “Right now, no. That’s deeply depressing.”

She added: “It’s not too late to turn that round and start to win it.

“But if we stay on the trajectory we are on right now globally, then climate change is going to overwhelm and overpower us. It is going to win.

“That is why there needs to be a much greater sense of urgency.”

She continued: “Scotland is a country that for all of my lifetime has benefited from fossil fuels, from oil and gas.

“There are 100,000 jobs directly and indirectly in Scotland dependent on oil and gas.

“So it is a difficult thing to say to people we have got to accelerate the move away from that.

“But we are letting down this and future generations if we shy away from it. So we have got to take on established ways of thinking.”

Mr Livingstone, meanwhile, said the science in the IPCC report made “chillingly and consistently clear” that the earth had “reached a critical climate crossroads”.

He stated: “It is still possible to limit global heating to 1.5C, but only just.

“Devastating droughts, floods and cyclones are striking hammer blows to the low-income countries who did least to cause this crisis.

“Every fraction of a degree of heating prevented will be counted in millions of lives saved.

“Rich governments must now end their fossil fuel addictions while funnelling fair funding to low-income countries to counter the damage.”

He also insisted that the Scottish Government “must deliver on its climate promises to the world, meeting rather than missing upcoming emission reduction targets by funding faster climate action by making polluters pay for their damage”.

Scottish Net Zero Secretary Michael Matheson said that the IPCC report “must lead to an acceleration of global action to tackle the climate emergency”.

He added: “With emissions down by over 50% since 1990, Scotland is making long-term progress towards net zero.

“However, we are now entering the most challenging part of the journey to date, with a need to halve our emissions again by the end of the decade.

“That will require truly transformational action across our society and economy, driven by Government, as part of a national effort to tackle the climate emergency.”

The Scottish Government’s next full climate change plan will set out a “pathway” to meeting emissions reduction targets for the years up to 2040, Mr Matheson added.

But he said the UK Government’s “failure to support” carbon capture projects in Scotland was “compromising our ability to respond to the climate crisis”.

Mr Matheson said: “It is clear that Scotland could make a much greater contribution to global climate action were we not reliant on decisions made elsewhere.”

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