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Climate change is affecting Scotland now – here’s what we can do

On Monday evening, BBC Scotland’s environment correspondent Kevin Keane investigated the effects of climate change within our own borders.

Iain Gulland | 31 Mar 21

On Monday evening, BBC Scotland’s environment correspondent Kevin Keane investigated the effects of climate change within our own borders.

The documentary, Disclosure: How You Can Stop Climate Change, carried a powerful message. Climate change is real, and us Scots are already dealing with the consequences.

Kevin tackled the myths head-on. Many people in Scotland assume we will not feel the effects of climate change until some point in the way distant future. But already we’re seeing wildfires, drought (yes, really!) and flooding.

His programme touched on three ways people can change their lifestyles for the good of the planet: drive an electric car, eat less meat and switch to renewable energy.

These are all admirable lifestyle changes – and will result in huge environmental benefits – but we need to also step back and look at the bigger picture.

Around four-fifths of Scotland’s footprint comes from the products and materials we manufacture, use and throw away. The truth is, everyone, from consumers and government to industry, needs to be more efficient with the Earth’s resources.

At the moment, we use huge quantities of metals, minerals, plants and other raw materials to make goods. Then we throw a lot of it away as waste - often after a short amount of time. Yet these raw materials do not exist in limitless supplies.

It’s time to think circular and it’s completely within our power to change the way we’re living.

The way I like to imagine it is, every single ‘thing’ has a life. It is born, resources are taken from the ground then it travels to a factory where it is turned into something useful. After we’re done with it, it is disposed of, whether by landfill, composting or recycling.

This whole process results in carbon emissions. Energy is used to manufacture goods and then they are transported all over the world. Resource-intensive products, like cars and buildings, then emit emissions over their lifetime. Whilst we talk a lot about these operational carbon impacts, we forget about the embedded carbon – this is where the staggering four-fifths statistic comes from.

The circular economy is all about retaining the value of the materials we use and avoiding waste. We can be more resilient by reducing demand for the extraction of raw resources and for waste disposal.

Every single ‘thing’ deserves to enjoy a long, useful life. Unnecessary materials should be cut out completely, and existing materials should be reused time and time again - negating the need for new products.

So, what can you do today?

We must buy smarter, buy long-lasting, buy fewer single-use items. There are many innovative people and small businesses in our communities across Scotland that can help you do this too. Is there a product that you could rent rather than buy? Could you inject life into an old item rather than throwing it out? There is bound to be a service in your area to allow you to do this.

Food waste is another major contributor to greenhouse gases. Scotland wastes way too much food and most of it comes from our homes. It’s a social and environmental problem. Food requires carbon to grow and get onto our shelves, and there’s a double whammy when it emits methane when left to rot in landfill.

Outside of the home, we know there are fantastic redistribution services available to connect people in communities across Scotland with surplus food from retailers and the food industry. We all can and should do more to tackle this issue.

This year at COP26, leaders from all around the world will come together to find solutions that accelerate action in tackling climate change. Kevin Keane got it bang on when he reminded individuals not to forget about their collective power. COP26 will be a moment for business leaders and citizens to reflect on how we can all make a difference.

Simply put, the circular economy provides a guide for all of us to collectively turn off the consumption tap, reduce our carbon emissions and end our contribution to the climate crisis


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