Scottish Climate Expert Jim Skea Speaks up About Pertinent Climate Issues

Scottish Climate Expert Jim Skea

At the COP26 conference in Glasgow at the end of the month, Scottish climate change specialist Jim Skea has urged world leaders to “step up to the plate.”

Prof Skea, a member of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said the scientists had spoken loudly and clearly, and that governments had run out of time to respond. He stated that “the clock is ticking” and that carbon emissions must be reduced.

According to the climate expert, the Glasgow conference is the perfect opportunity for politicians to follow through on their commitments. Prof Skea is a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) bureau and the UK government’s Committee on Climate Change. He was born in Dundee and attended Edinburgh University.

He was also the chair of the Scottish government’s Just Transition Commission, which looked into how to manage the transition to greener lifestyles fairly and equitably.

Prof Skea told BBC Scotland’s Glenn Campbell on the podcast No Hot Air that current pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions were incompatible with the objective of keeping global warming “well below 2 degrees Celsius,” let alone the more ambitious goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

These goals were agreed upon in 2015 at the historic COP summit in Paris. To stay close to that goal, warming gas emissions must be cut in half by 2030 and essentially eliminated by 2050. So Glasgow, according to Professor Skea, was the most important summit since Paris.

Scottish Climate Expert Jim Skea Speaks up About Pertinent Climate Issues

He explained, “It’s the start of a stock-taking process.  Have we delivered on the Paris ambitions or not?”

“There is no expectation that another agreement is going to emerge in Glasgow; instead, implementing and putting in place what the Paris agreement actually said.”

“It is getting countries to deliver on the promises.”

He stated that the goal of Paris was to persuade countries to make pledges but that they needed to improve in order to be in line with the overall global accord. “If we continue emitting as we are at the moment, the Paris goals will go beyond reach, that’s undoubted,” Prof Skea added.

Reducing emissions, he explained on the podcast, required burning fewer fossil fuels and being more energy-efficient.

Greenpeace and other environmental groups have lately challenged the UK government to block new oil field development, with the Cambo field west of Shetland causing the most controversy. Although the UK government intends to lessen its reliance on fossil fuels, it claims that “ongoing demand” for oil and gas exists.

It states that we must switch to renewable energy sources “as fast as we reasonably can.”

As an IPCC official, Prof Skea said he had to be careful not to comment on individual governments’ policies.

He did, however, mention the International Energy Agency, which has developed a series of scenarios for activities needed to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“In that scenario, there is no further development of oil fields globally at all,” he stated.

“If you were to pursue the much more flexible ‘well below 2C’ formula, there probably would be space for new oil fields, but nevertheless, a lot of the oil fields that have been proved up would still need to stay in the ground globally,” he said.

This brings up the difficult question of who gets to extract their oil and who doesn’t.

Nuclear power is another contentious energy source. It creates no carbon emissions, but it does produce radioactive waste and poses a risk of radiation leaks. According to Prof. Skea, different countries have extremely varied attitudes toward nuclear power, with much of Europe opposing it while China invests substantially.

“Certainly, in those countries that choose nuclear, if it replaces coal, it will help with climate change,” he said.