Targets missed, both in Scotland and the UK, policies postponed or possibly scratched. You would think we must be living through times of good news on climate and biodiversity.

The science must be suddenly saying that the planet, and us humans and our children, are going to be okay. We can afford to slow down and shelve a few things, maybe even bin them for good.

But, no, that does not appear to be happening. If anything, things are looking worse than expected.

Antarctic ice has hit a record low for June, and is set to completely melt this summer. The tropics lost 10% more primary rainforest in 2022 than in 2021, releasing an amount of carbon dioxide equivalent to the annual fossil fuel emissions of India.

Wildfires in Canada are being talked of as the “new abnormal”. A study last autumn said that we were on the brink of five ‘disastrous’ climate tipping points. 

Even in Scotland, we are experiencing water scarcity and a marine heatwave, both of which are made more likely by climate change.

Of course, not all of the environmental policies postponed or scratched are about climate change – and this complexity may be part of what’s turning people off.

Scotland’s postponed Deposit Return scheme was only partially about net zero: chiefly it was about plastic pollution.

Highly Protected Marine Areas (also now shelved) were really more about biodiversity. Low emissions zones, one of the few berated policies still being rolled out, are really about public health, not greenhouse gas emissions.

But nevertheless, it feels like there has been a turning away from green issues as a whole – and that this has been building for a while, particularly in relation to policies that are perceived as top-down and more stick than carrot. 

On climate, we have been flagging in terms of momentum. Scotland, we learned last week, has missed certain targets, only around six months after we were warned by the Climate Change Committee that those targets were "in danger of becoming meaningless". 

Peatlands goals have been missed for the fifth year running. Agriculture narrowly overtook business as the second largest source of emissions.

The Climate Change Committee also announced that the UK had missed targets on multiple fronts, highlighting backtracking on commitments to phase out fossil fuels by supporting new oil and gas production.

Above all, the message was that the UK was caught in inertia. “Hesitancy” and “lack of leadership” were among the criticisms by the committee.

We have lost our edge. We are no longer world leaders. The Tory Government, the committee warned, has “sent confusing signals on its climate priorities to the global community”.

To me, it feels worse than hesitancy. It feels like a turning away – as a leadership void has exploded across the UK.

Even as it’s announced that China is on track to hit its 2030 clean energy targets five years early, we flag. Perhaps it’s because Britain is politically broken, so much of it already failing, that change seems too much, especially after the pandemic. 

Meanwhile what’s most worrying is that there seems to be a reframing of all that is green as extremist. Recently we have seen Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross rail at how the “extremist Green tail” was “wagging the SNP dog”.

“On the Deposit Return Scheme,” he said of current policy, “they’re risking jobs and businesses. On farming, they’re risking rural livelihoods. On gender reform, they’re risking women’s rights. On fishing, they’re risking the very future of the industry. On oil and gas, they’re risking Scotland’s energy security.”

It's important, of course, that we tackle all these risks on Ross's list  – from livelihoods to energy security. But the word extreme is used to make environmental concerns seem outlandish. 

Is it really extreme to try to create policies that are about averting disaster, and lowering risk, for the future?

Was the Conservative party extreme when it pursued HPMAs for England, or all the other parties? Were all the other parties that put such plans on their manifesto? Is the UK Government also extreme for creating a Deposit Return scheme, albeit without glass? 

We can argue over whether those globally agreed policies are indeed the correct course of action, debate the inadequacy of consultation or ineptitude in execution, but extremist is hardly what they are.

And, meanwhile, the problem is that inertia. Climate change and the biodiversity crisis are failing to galvanise us. I thought about this when I spoke recently to an expert on marine science about the current ocean heatwave off Scotland.

The professor appeared to be an optimist, but I was chilled by some of his thoughts on whether current weather extremes are likely to drive a climate crisis effort.

“My feeling," he said, "is that it’s going to take some extreme events beyond the magnitude of this heatwave for people to really take notice. It will probably be wildfires and crop failures across a continent that will change people’s attitudes. At some point our vegetable crops will fail on such a scale that people will go hungry.”