MAYBE Mother Nature is kind not cruel. Maybe rather than red in tooth and claw, she’s more into nudge theory when it comes to humans. Perhaps we can look at Covid as her way of giving us a gentle shove – a last chance, a final reminder, to get our act together when it comes to the climate crisis.

If humans used the wit we were born with, we’d see Covid not just as a dry run for tackling the much bigger global catastrophe of environmental breakdown, but also a wake up call. Get your act together now, Nature seems to say, because it’s almost too late.

Yet look at how our governments handled Covid. Disastrously. What hope for the planet if they cannot act intelligently in the face of the virus?

Even from the most indulgent perspective, the response to Covid from both the British and Scottish governments has been pathetic. Few countries fared better, but we don’t live under those governments so it’s Edinburgh and London we must reserve our ire and criticism for, otherwise we engage in mere partisan deflection.

Scotland is now Europe’s Covid capital. Some boast. We’ve six of the 10 European regions with the highest case rates. Around 24,000 people are now testing positive each week. No wonder Andy Burnham couldn’t contain his anger at Nicola Sturgeon’s Manchester travel ban – an act which seemed to put politics above public health.

Don’t look to London for any better offering. Boris Johnson’s planned lifting of Covid restrictions is causing panic among Government scientists who fear he’s building new “variant factories”. UK cases have risen to their highest level since January. New Health Secretary Sajid Javid says we’ll just have to learn to live with Covid. For the Tories – a party which looks on empathy as weakness – it’s money that matters, not people.

Read more: We said we’d change the world after Covid but nothing has changed and nothing will

The two governments have shown systemic inability to tackle crisis. They grandstanded, dissembled, bluffed, and brazened out their disastrous policies which failed to protect people adequately from Day One. Now, as we stagger toward some "end" to the pandemic, it seems both governments have just given up the fight entirely.

And these are the people meant to lead the fight against climate change? If it wasn’t such a terrifying prospect it would be darkly comic. But both Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon will be greenwashing themselves the shade of an Irish shamrock this November when the UN climate summit comes to Glasgow – bathing in the false emerald glow of phoney rhetoric and empty promises on the environment.

That there’s a difference in character between Ms Sturgeon and Mr Johnson matters not a bit. Ms Sturgeon may well be a decent woman (personally, I believe she is), and Mr Johnson may well be a careless, dangerous charlatan (personally, I believe he is), but both are politicians through and through, and politicians trade on falsity. Is Ms Sturgeon an environmentalist? Yes, I’m sure at heart she cares about the planet. Is Mr Johnson? No, he’s sneered at environmentalism. But what does the difference really matter? Neither is doing anything substantial when it comes to tackling the climate crisis. Policy waffle doesn’t count – nor does hiding behind a lack of devolved powers.

We should already be pivoting from Covid to the climate. The Earth is burning. An event happened last week which sums up where we are as a species. As Canada baked in unimaginable heat, the town of Lytton recorded the country’s highest temperature – 49.6C. That’s Saudi Arabian temperatures in Canada. Not long after, Lytton burned to the ground as wildfires engulfed the town. Around 500 people have died in the Canadian heatwave – though to use the word "heatwave" is like describing a typhoon as a shower.

While Canada burned, the Gulf of Mexico caught fire. The sea. Caught fire. State-owned petrol company Pemex blamed a gas leak from an underwater pipeline. The images looked like something from a horror movie – a fiery eye of flame roaring on the ocean’s surface, as if an elevator to hell had opened up. Wealthy residents are leaving Karachi in Pakistan as heat becomes unbearable. Artic sea ice is melting; temperatures in Antarctica have hit 18.3 degrees.


Only a fool would see these events as concerns on the far side of the world and of no account here in Britain. When the sea rises, our cities will drown too.

A study by Scottish councils, universities, the NHS, and infrastructure and environmental bodies like Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, found that two million people in the Greater Glasgow area face severe disruption from the climate heating up unless billions more is invested in protecting homes, businesses and transport links. Cities built on rivers like the Clyde will be crisis zones in the future thanks to increased heatwaves, flash floods and droughts. Expect more wild flooding like this weekend, but with devastating consequences.

Up to 410 million people globally are currently facing a future where they’ll soon be living in areas less than two metres above sea level – and at clear risks of their homes disappearing under water.

Read more: Scotland can lead the way in green energy industry

Fossil fuel companies have known for 60 years that their behaviour was destroying the environment. There’s no difference between Big Tobacco and Big Oil – it’s just one kills people individually, the other kills people collectively. Energy firms were warned by their own scientists decades ago. Instead of acting, they engaged in disinformation and spawned the climate denial industry.

There’s a new word for this: the crime of "ecocide". Those responsible for knowingly putting the planet at risk should perhaps be seen as candidates for prosecution at international criminal courts, convened along the lines of the The Hague court for war crimes.

We cannot simply blame our politicians for this. We elected them, after all. They’re an expression of our will. The awful truth is that most people just don’t care enough. We’re too myopic, so we’ll leave it to our children. They’ll damn us for that.

Today, we’re gearing up for the Roaring 20s – the party after the pandemic. It’ll be a strange soirée indeed: a dance to the string quartet on the deck of the Titanic; a mass distraction as the sea laps over the ship’s listing prow.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald