SOLASTALGIA is a word coined by Australian philosopher Glenn Albrecht almost 20 years ago to describe the feeling of people in New South Wales when confronted with climate change related drought as well as vast strip mines disfiguring virgin land.

Now it is used more widely to mean the emotional effect of climate change on those who suffer its consequences.

Up until now, solastalgia has mostly been felt by people far away, like the Pacific islanders who have lost their homes to the rising sea, but it will be coming nearer, given the devastation wrought by the worst wildfires in Greek and Canadian history and the floods across France and Italy.

There are also signs in our own communities – for example the rising intensity of rainfall in the West of Scotland which increases the danger of landslips. However, we have not yet experienced sudden disaster nor major irretrievable loss.

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In other words, we can still try to do something to mitigate the full effects of man-made climate change.

In 2008, when I was environment minister, I worked with others on the best way to get across such a message. Little but often was the agreed technique, so that people did not feel hopeless but were able and willing to change the way they lived to match the needs of our planet – the only home we have.

Little and often has, however, not made enough of an impact. We can’t of course solve the global crisis on our own but we all – individuals, communities, nations – need to try. The cumulative effect will still be what matters and it is still not great enough.

This year, the Antarctic sea ice is at its thinnest since records began. The more it melts, the more sea levels will rise. A projected map of my own area indicates that roads alongside our sea lochs will be inaccessible within 50 years – though as sea temperatures have shot up suddenly that timescale may now be optimistic. Moreover, extreme climate effects – all connected in some way to climate change – are increasing fast.

The message now has to reflect those realities. It must also, though, posit not just problems but solutions and we need more of those including practical assistance – financial and educational – for citizens as they contemplate what they must do.

Taking action now is harder, more difficult and more expensive than if we had heeded the warnings and acted more decisively a decade ago. But success is still possible providing we pull together, which is why Rishi Sunak’s (below) crass and selfish intervention this week is so stupidly and dangerously counter-productive.

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Not only has he over stressed individual difficulty and expense, he has also presented false information about such things as the ludicrous “seven bin” problem and (non-existent) legislation about what we eat.

But there is worse. Despite the crisis and its obvious effects and while we are at a crucial moment in terms of galvanising essential personal response to the threat, he is telling people that they don’t have to bother about climate change any more.

According to him, the whole thing is under control and the UK is leading the way in solving it, which is complete bollocks.

Moreover, concern and action is, he claims, only another woke fad, being forced upon ordinary people by an out-of-touch elite.

This is the same tactic that Brexiteers used when arguing against the expert advice which, correctly, showed that leaving the EU would be a disaster.

Brexit is relevant in other ways, too. Sunak’s appalling performance this week was presaged by his government’s abandonment of what was meant to be a binding post-Brexit promise regarding the continuation of EU environmental standards. In fact, they are in the process of being jettisoned while chemicals banned in Europe are being permitted in the UK.

The grim truth is that Sunak is prepared to sacrifice not just clean water but also human health just in order to try to win votes.

Doctors when they graduate have to sign an oath which pledges them to do no harm. Perhaps it is time we insisted on that for politicians too though in fact the vast majority of those who seek election do so because they believe in, and want to create, a better world.

However, the current Tory Party has lost every last vestige of ambition in that regard. It merely wants to stay in power so that it can go on protecting the rich at the expense of the rest of us. Anything and everything must be sacrificed to that aim including the air, sea and land around us.

They will leave their – and our – children a stinking desert and call it the triumph of conservatism.

Scotland, it might be thought, has the freedom to pursue its own environmental policies but as ever the detail of devolution constrains us. The Brexit Internal Market Act can and will be used to forbid us imposing more stringent targets. Alister Jack will be more than willing to overrule Scottish environmental legislation designed to counter current UK policy, and the squeeze on Scottish budgets from Westminster will come into play too.

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The real reason why there is so much negativity and hatred expressed at the Greens in government in Scotland is because they represent the growing imperative for all of politics to focus on the most important threat our world faces and to find collaborative solutions to it. They remind Tories and Labour – and others – that their own approach is dangerous and outdated.

There couldn’t be a better time to re-enforce that message and to ensure that Scotland understands that only independence and the full imaginative application of our own resources will make the crucial and essential difference. Sunak is not acting in our name. The very make-up of our Parliament says so loud and clear.

We now need to ensure that every Scottish voter – and every other nation – knows that too.