This article appears as part of the Winds of Change newsletter.

Last month, it has been confirmed, was the world’s hottest May on record, completing a whole year – twelve straight months – of record global temperatures.

The news, not unexpected, at the weekend, prompted Antonio Guterres to declare, “We need an exit ramp off the highway to climate hell. The battle for 1.5 degrees will be won and lost in the 2020s.”

It’s worth reminding ourselves of this, in the midst of a cool June, as the general election campaign gathers speed. The battle for seats in the UK’s 2024 election may be won or lost on other issues but climate change has not paused.

To different degrees, all of us globally, are set to be impacted by the climate crisis, but we are also impacted by, and share in, the efforts to mitigate it. Our human world is changing around us. The way we use energy and consume goods is shifting. Heat pumps, electric cars, solar panels, battery safety, a circular economy, The story of these powerful winds of change is one that I will be telling and analysing in this new Herald newsletter.

Scotland, in spite of failing to hit many targets, and having dropped recently its ‘no longer credible’ 2030 target, has made huge progress in reducing emissions, but some of the hardest challenges are yet to come.

In many ways, net zero efforts feel like they are coming closer to home. Decarbonising is no longer about windfarms erected on the doorsteps of relatively few citizens, but changes made within the households of most. It is, in Scotland, above all, about changing how we heat our homes and travel.

This is why, last month, we dedicated a series to the myths, truths and costs of heat pumps. We wanted to shed genuine light on this technology which is at the heart of UK and Scottish government plans to shift home heating off fossil fuels, but which, as yet, a great many of us have never even seen installed inside a home.

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As research, I listened to the noise heat pumps make, felt the radiators, pored over installation and energy bill spreadsheets of real heat pump owners, and dug into the data.

What the research threw up was that well-installed, and in a well-insulated building, a heat pump can be part of a system that creates a warm, comfortable home, and with bills less or equal to a gas boiler. Even an old ground-floor tenement flat can, as one owner did, with a bit of determination, be made heat-pump ready.

But even with generous grants and loans the installation costs can be prohibitive, and for owners of older homes, the process can be disruptive. One option, advocated by some, is that it’s not necessary to rip out all the radiators and max out on insulation. But with that comes the risk of higher bills and lower efficiency. Every installation is still its own experiment, with few guarantees on what the final bills will be.

The reaction to the series was sometimes warm, and sometimes heated. Readers got in touch with me saying that such coverage by a national newspaper was long overdue. Others queried why focus was not also given to hydrogen as a heat source.

Our series covered every question and facet of heat pumps (Image: Herald Design/Damian Shields)
But heat pumps are just one of many issues attached to climate and the environment. Not only is Scotland set to further decarbonise our energy, but the way we manage the land and interact with nature is changing, in an attempt not just to curb climate change but also reverse biodiversity decline.

Some of these issues are highly politicised. Some changes, like the expansion of the electricity grid, with its new regiments of pylons, are fraught. Winds of Change will follow these debates, and listen to the voices of communities, but also dig into research. In our energy and environment coverage we aim to and also deliver stories that are practical and useful.

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The newsletter will also provide a glimpse of what’s to come in the week ahead. This week, I’ll be looking at why the Energy Saving Trust Scotland’s announcement that it is going to drop solar installations from its grants and loans scheme is a concern. What will that mean for those seeking a way of bringing down heat-pump energy bills?

And, with oil and gas jobs at the centre of political debate, following SNP declarations that 100,000 of jobs stand to be lost in the sector with Labour's promised windfall tax plans,  I’ll also ask where we are at with the just transition and creation of green jobs in the renewables sector.  Why are so many workers staying in oil and gas, when there is a recruitment problem in renewables?

Change is happening. But with knowledge we can be more in control of where those winds blow us.