By Gina Hanrahan, Head of Policy, WWF Scotland

EACH spring in the Arctic, the great melt comes. It begins with the trickling of thousands of tiny streams, invisible at the surface. Suddenly the snow is gone, and unstoppable rivers and streams are all around.

In recent weeks we’ve seen the latent concern about climate change flood public consciousness in a way we’ve not seen before. We’ve known for years that there is widespread public concern about climate change. And that people have expected a response from their leaders that’s consistent with what science is telling them. Last weekend, the First Minister stepped forward to declare a Climate Emergency, making Scotland one of the first countries in the world to do so. It’s time, as young climate activist Greta Thunberg has warned us, to “act like our house is on fire”.

It’s not just Greta who is sounding this alarm about the future of our planet and the legacy we will leave for our children. There’s been an outpouring of activity across society. Who can have missed the youth climate strikers and the Extinction Rebellion protesters? But we’ve also seen the Governor of the Bank of England warn the financial sector that they must act on the risks posed by climate change to their sector. And it has been unmissable on our screens: David Attenborough’s touchstone Climate Change: The Facts documentary, the heart-breaking scenes in Netflix’s Our Planet of walruses driven to their death by a lack of sea ice, and there’s even Game of Thrones, whose creator has said climate change is the real-world parallel to his stories.

Across Scotland people are making choices and changes in their daily lives that reflect their concern about climate change. But it’s clear from the recent outpouring of opinion that people know those changes on their own are far from enough, and they want more from their leaders. Years of incremental and insufficient change by our leaders in politics and business do not add up to the big required changes to our society, economy and technology.

Climate change is the biggest and most complex challenge humanity has ever faced. But it is not impossible. We have most of the technologies we need, and we already know most of the answers. But we need leadership from those with their hands on the levers of power.

That’s why it was so exciting to see Nicola Sturgeon declare a Climate Emergency and the Scottish Parliament vote for a 10-year economy-wide mobilisation in a Green New Deal to tackle the crisis. This has to mean accelerated and coordinated action commensurate with the crisis. And it has to mean new more ambitious targets.

On Thursday a new independent, expert report will set out how the UK and Scotland can reach net-zero climate emissions. Scotland’s politicians can respond by setting a net-zero deadline date, thereby joining a growing group of nations who are focussing efforts on ending their contribution to climate change pollution. But they must also set out how they will move away from business and politics as usual. Scotland has brought itself success in moving to renewable electricity. But our political leaders are doing nowhere near enough when it comes to leading us away from fossil fuels for our heating and transport needs, and in transforming our natural landscapes to trap more carbon from the atmosphere.

Just last week, Greta Thunberg told politicians: “Humans are very adaptable: we can still fix this. But the opportunity to do so will not last for long. We must start today….We children are doing this for you to put your differences aside and start acting as you would in a crisis. “

Crises call for cool heads, and swift, decisive action. Scotland’s politicians have the chance this week to show they have the heads to tackle the climate emergency facing people and nature.

Read more: Sturgeon declares climate emergency