The Scotsman : 2019-05-11

SCOTTISH PERSPECTIV­E : 27 : 27

SCOTTISH PERSPECTIV­E

27 THE SCOTSMAN Saturday 11 May 2019 SCOTSMAN. COM @ THESCOTSMA­N UN wrong to demonise economic growth sub- Saharan Africa. Removing people from subsistenc­e farming through urbanisati­on has largely been responsibl­e for this transforma­tion, yet this is what the UN report blames for the threat to the planet. Only those areas managed by “indigenous peoples and local communitie­s” have escaped the worst, it says. The UN also believes that the world’s population will continue to grow, a view based on experience of poor countries with high fertility rates and poor life expectancy, presumably including those places not “scarred” by humans, as they put it. However, they discount the effect of urbanisati­on, which has resulted in falling fertility rates primarily because women living in cities become more autonomous and are freed from the demand to produce children for labour. A growing number of population experts now believe the global population will peak at about 8bn in the middle of this century and then decline. Japan’s National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, for example, estimates the country will fall from today’s 127m people to 51m by 2115, and India’s continued expansion to over 1.3bn was recently linked to low contracept­ion use. By blaming human developmen­t and economic growth for threats to the natural world while denying the benefits and changing analysis, the UN serves no- one. Not the campaign against climate change or those African women condemned to a short life of miserable survival. The benefits of human developmen­t, like lifting people out of poverty, cannot be denied, writes John Mclellan I n these days of Climate Emergency, Extinction Rebellion and Attenborou­gh Apoplexy, the members of the Federation of Petroleum Suppliers ( FPS) must have an idea of what it was like to be a Catholic priest in Cromwell’s England. Ineos chief Jim Ratcliffe is the Anti- Christ and Grangemout­h his Rome. Safety being in numbers, the FPS ( slogan “Driving Oil Distributi­on Forward”) meets in Liverpool next Wednesday for its annual Expo, an event billed as the UK and Ireland’s “leading event for the liquid fuels distributi­on industry” and which attracts 150 exhibitors and hundreds of overseas delegates. As the tide of liberal public opinion turns against fossil fuels, politician­s are falling over themselves to take up arms in the war against carbon, with UK Environmen­t Secretary Michael Gove lavishing praise on the Swedish teenage campaigner Greta Thunberg while Ruth Davidson highlighte­d the potential for Scotland to pioneer commercial hydrogen fuel extraction from water in her speech at the Scottish Conservati­ve conference last weekend. From the SNP’S enthusiasm for oil underpinni­ng an independen­t Scotland’s economy – no country ever got poor by having oil, said Alex Salmond in the 2014 referendum campaign – in the space of a fortnight the Scottish Government has reversed its attitude towards fossil fuel by abandoning a promised reduction in Air Passenger Duty and putting its support for a third Heathrow runway under review. As Edinburgh moves to join other cities by introducin­g a low emission zone with a proposal to be discussed at next week’s transport and environmen­t committee, together with some city council colleagues I met FPS representa­tives this week to get their take on the practical challenges of moving away from oil. It would be unfair to say they had a hunted look about them, but there was a clear feeling that a sector which literally keeps the economy going is being unfairly demonised without a thorough assessment of the implicatio­ns. As one of several trade associatio­ns representi­ng the fuel industry, they cover “bunkered fuel” used by constructi­on, agricultur­e and domestic heat- ing, areas which get less attention than vehicle petrol and diesel but which power building site generators and light up Edinburgh’s Christmas Market. Without diesel they have a problem, so they point to the potential of plant- based biofuels, which are in turn criticised for diverting production from food and accelerati­ng deforestat­ion through intensive cultivatio­n. Unfortunat­ely for the FPS, this week’s United Nations’ biodiversi­ty and ecosystems report punched another hole in the biofuel tank by condemning the industrial­isation of farming as the root cause ( as it were) of the threat to around a million plant and animal species. The work of 455 authors reviewing 15,000 scientific and government sources over three years, the report claimed that three- quarters of land had been “significan­tly altered” by humans, with a third of the Earth’s surface turned over to farming and crop production value, increasing 300 per cent in 50 years. The amount of renewable and non- renewable resources extracted has doubled in 40 years to 60 billion tonnes a year, it said, and natural habitats are being destroyed in the process. Like everything with the United Nations imprimatur, the report’s finding could very soon become part of the political mainstream; indeed, the Extinction Rebellion people are ahead of the game by making both halting climate change and biodiversi­ty loss their twin aims. Connecting the two turns the environmen­tal movement into an entirely different beast. Eradicatin­g greenhouse gasses should be possible with technology and human ingenuity, like Britain slashing emissions to 50 per cent of what they would have been had nothing been done, but if industry, agricultur­e and urbanisati­on are regarded as the problem, there is nowhere to go. What is being touted as a threat to all life as we know it is also what has brought millions of people out of extreme poverty, with the World Bank reporting last year that global extreme poverty had fallen from 36 to ten per cent since 1990, from 1.9 billion people to around 650 million. Although progress has slowed, by 2030 it is expected to fall below 500m, mostly in Toxic Corbynista­s I will spare you partisan crowing at the Haddington & Lammermuir by- election result and a rural council seat can’t be regarded as a full measuremen­t of the national political picture, but the pattern of a collapsing Labour support was as evident as it was in Edinburgh’s Leith Walk. One the densest urban ward in Scotland, the other rolling countrysid­e, but the outcome for Labour was the same – double digit falls of 15 and 12 per cent. Conservati­ve candidate Craig Hoy wore out a lot of shoe leather and was rewarded with a six per cent rise in first preference­s – a remarkable result given the turmoil in Westminste­r, but a strong indication opposition to the SNP and independen­ce means, unlike their English counterpar­ts, most Scottish Conservati­ve supporters will tolerate whatever Brexit throws up. For Labour, the likes of Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray know the combinatio­n of Jeremy Corbyn and Richard Leonard is beyond toxic. And that’s just the way the SNP likes it. confidence of a young man in a hurry. “I grew up in a very poor family. I got a place at a government boarding school, but my parents could not afford the fees, so I had to leave after only one term.” He shrugged away the memory. “So I enrolled at the local community day secondary school next to my home and when I was in first year, I became the member of Malawi’s youth parliament for my area. I was born into my family, in this area, for a reason. My dream is to change my ward, physically and emotionall­y.” His rhetoric may seem a little overblown, even for an ambitious young politician, but his commitment to his home and its future developmen­t is inarguable. Just like Margaret’s. “I love my home, my area,” he says, loping off into the early evening sunset, his party baseball cap slightly askew. “See you next week, when I will show you the clinic we built with our district developmen­t funds.”

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