What does a Climate Emergency Look Like?

Mike Small
4 min readJul 7, 2019

A man falls from the sky out of an plane into the back-garden of a house in Clapham.

His partially frozen body makes an indent.

Like a sign from the heavens of a world completely out of control, it passes the headlines for a day and then is forgotten.

Theses signs are increasing now. Like the winter-summer we just passed off with a shrug.

Our “climate emergency” is declared often, but closer examination suggests little real change.

Examples of bogus propaganda and inertia are everywhere.

The airline company Etihad, which offers customers a three-room “suite in the sky” with butler, has pledged to remove 80 per cent of single-use plastics across the business by the end of 2022. Now you can fly Edinburgh to Dubai safe in the knowledge that your cutting down your use of plastic, a bit, in the future.

This is high-end greenwash.

What we need is some

Climate science denialists used to be cranks and willfully ignorant old men with difficulties in social integration, or people in pay to Big Oil. These types have now been taken out of service, abandoned even by the tabloids and right-wing press who employed them as “columnists” then routinely printing the apologies on page fifty-four when a press regulator forced them to acknowledge that last weeks five-page spread was a tissue of lies and disinformation.

Now climate science deniers come into two new and different categories. There are those of us still clinging onto the idea that our lifestyle changes are in someway relevant to where we are now in the process of catastrophe; the second is those corporate marketing people — the Don Draper’s of the climate crisis generation — bunkered down protecting or advancing some of the worst polluting industries in the world.

But how are we faring in Scotland?

The new EDF offshore wind farm has a lovely gaelic name — Neart na Gaoithe — which means “power of the wind” — and promises clean green renewable energy. It’s a £2 billion pound investment. The project has the potential to generate 450MW of renewable energy, which is enough power to supply around 325,000 Scottish homes — more than the whole of Edinburgh & will offset over 400,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year.

All of which is great. But instead of using the BiFab shipyard at Burntisland currently lying idle some 15 miles from the site, EDF are using Indonesian yards some 7,300 miles away.

This, we can exclusively reveal after work with the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) that shows that shipping the turbine parts from Indonesia (7000 miles away) will costs 160,000 tonnes of C02.

That’s a huge carbon cost, but the combination of globalised capitalism and Scotland’s energy policy being run by Westminster means there’s nothing we can do about.

Our inability to create a just transition programme of any meaning, means that the opportunity to take people from industry in oil and gas and re-employ them in clean green energy is being lost. Scotland, having lost out on North Sea Oil is in danger of losing out to the renewables revolution though lack of control of our economy and our energy policy.

Just over the hill from Burntisland nestles Cowdenbeath, and just before it Mossmorran ExxonMobil’s ethylene plant.

“Representatives of ExxonMobil’s Fife Ethylene Plant have apologised after unexpected flaring sent black smoke high into the skies across Fife for most of the past week. But the community remains furious at what it sees as regulatory failure and corporate evasion from ExxonMobil.”

I wrote this in May of this year but I could have written the same words last week, as its happened again (and again).

Apart from being the top polluter in the whole of Scotland — the plant produces 885,580 tonnes of C02 per year — its routinely terrifies local inhabitants in Lochgelly and Cowdenbeath who are exasperated at the prevarication and uselessness of the Scottish Government to take control of the situation and address the reality that the regulatory body (SEPA) is not fit for purpose.

Much of this is just routine powerlessness and incompetence by government in the face of oil companies.

But the level of intransigence in the face of climate breakdown pops up everywhere.

This week saw retired politician Kenny MacAskill write in the Scotsman about cruise liners in the Forth ( ‘Why Edinburgh needs a new cruise liner terminal.’) He started strongly arguing “cruise liners emit as much emissions as 1 million cars” — and even managed a few lines about the need to deal with climate problems (or something).

He writes: “Global warming needs tackled. If shopping and aviation are not addressed, it’s reckoned that 40 per cent of CO2 emissions will come from those two sectors by 2050.”

But then he concluded that we really needed a cruise liner terminal and they’d be around for a while so we should just build one.

He concludes:

“Cruise ships are here to stay, so let’s regulate them and maximise profit from them.”

It’s a sort of desultory ignorance of an entire generation of people.

In the face of clear knowledge, every single time we just opt for profit.

It’s woefully inadequate, its morally unforgivable and it shouldn’t have been published.

Our climate change emergency is really a performative act where we do nothing at all.

A man falls from the sky out of an plane into the back-garden of a house in Clapham.

His partially frozen body makes an indent.

Like a sign from the heavens of a world completely out of control, it passes the headlines for a day and then is forgotten.

Theses signs are increasing now. Like the winter-summer we just passed off with a shrug.

Image credit:
Lines (57° 59′ N, 7° 16'W) Installation by Pekka Niittyvirta & Timo Aho at Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum & Arts Centre 2018

Originally published at https://bellacaledonia.org.uk on July 7, 2019.

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Mike Small

Venture Communism | Degrowth | Twilight Sci-fi | Generalism