The National:

This is from a newsletter from Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp, called Reinventing Scotland - focusing on the wellbeing economy. Sign up here to receive it every Tuesday at 7pm. 

SOMETIMES, I wonder if readers of Reinventing Scotland think: “Yes, that would be nice. Wellbeing would be a lovely thing to base the economy on.”

I really hope not … because “nice” isn’t enough – it's essential. We need to urgently trigger a paradigm shift from failed neoliberalism to wellbeing economics.

We are in socioeconomic crisis mode: levels of inequality, deprivation, pensioner poverty, inflation and most important of all an ecological crisis that is a threat to the very existence of mankind. If we don't act, the planet may survive but thousands of other species will not and mankind may well be one of those.

Good Growth and the climate crisis

The concept of growth with the Wellbeing Economic Approach is good growth: that which does not harm the planet. Addressing climate change will take a never-before-imagined level of investment in renewable energy, carbon capture, environmental science and biotechnology.

The National:

This is why I am not against economic growth per se, nor do I subscribe completely to the degrowth agenda. Even if we are able to significantly curb excess consumption and unnecessary spending to the levels that would reduce the economy, the massive investment required to address climate change will itself become major drivers of Good Growth.

Wellbeing, society and the economy, interdependent and interconnected

Wellbeing cannot be maximised unless the economy, society and the environment exist in harmony. Each depends on the other to reach its fullest potential and that’s a problem as human-made climate change poses the greatest threat to wellbeing.

Since the Industrial Revolution, global CO2 emissions have grown exponentially. The effect of rapid rises in CO2 emissions includes increased global temperatures, negative health outcomes such as increased respiratory illnesses and crop failures/agricultural productivity reductions.

Climate change and Scotland

People often think Scotland is less at risk from climate change but the long-term climate change trend includes a significant increase in the occurrence of extreme weather conditions such as in Scotland’s North East in the last week.

The National:

The Met Office forecasts that by 2070, summers in the UK will be between one and six degrees Celsius hotter than they are now and up to 60% drier. This will have serious negative impacts on crop yields – even in 2022, record heat led farmers to experience lower than average yields.

Continuous warming could lead to a worldwide increase in food prices by around 20% by 2050. Agricultural settings can also become more vulnerable to pests and disease while threats to pollinators can also reduce crop growth.

Air pollution, considered to be the world’s single largest environmental health risk, is also having an effect in Scotland. Air pollution is estimated to cause between 2500 and 3000 annual deaths here.

However, the situation appears to be improving, albeit slowly. Deaths attributable to air pollution in Scotland appear to have gone down between 2010 and 2016, and in 2022, air pollution in Scotland remained under legal limits for the first time, excluding during the Covid-19 pandemic. This could in part be related to the implementation of policies to reduce air pollution, for example through the introduction of low emission zones, which haven’t exactly been popular.

Climate migration will also affect Scotland

Large swathes of the world are already suffering from reduced food productivity and temperature, increasing incidences of disease and the insects that produce them. Within decades we can expect to see areas of South America, Asia and Africa become inhospitable to human life.

Those areas currently host populations in the many tens of millions – where do you think they are going to go? The idea that border controls that can't cope with thousands of migrants per week will have any role to play when drought leads to millions of people joining a single march to Europe or North America in a mass exodus is outrageously stupid.

The idea that Scotland will somehow be immune or that it's not our problem when it’s the unsustainable consumption of the Western world of which we are part that has caused the problem is akin to burying our heads in the overheating sand.

So, what's the solution?

ONS surveys from 2022 show that 74% of UK adults report being worried about the climate and environment. Almost everyone agrees there is an urgent need to take action, even in Scotland. However, ask them to agree to a bottle recycling scheme, a ban on single-use plastics, low emission zones, highly protected marine areas … and there are instantly a thousand reasons not to act.

Politicians adore individual policies, vote-winners, eight-word TV soundbites to prove they are doing something – but they are throwing pebbles in the ocean expecting it to change the tides.

The National:

And no-one will ever implement the policies and targets agreed at the COP events until it's already too late. There will always be pushback until the values of society change, until we affect a paradigm shift in how we view the world and our role in stewarding the planet's system.

How do we do that?

What would that previously unimagined level of investment and intervention look like if we dared to imagine it? How do you lead a paradigm change? That will be the focus of next week's column.

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp is the chief executive of Business for Scotland and the founder of the Believe in Scotland campaign.