What an intriguing choice for COP26: Glasgow, the one-time Second City of the Empire. I wonder what today's citizens think of global warming and climate change. 'When was the last time we had a decent summer?' can be heard among its denizens. 'World to warm up by over 2C? Well about time', says another.
The problem with climate change is that we don't actually understand it. Yes, we have seen the pictures of the Antarctic shelf collapsing and reports of ice sheets twice the size of Scotland floating in the southern oceans. We have seen that the ice shelf around Greenland is disappearing and those polar bears on National Geographic having a hard time finding food. We've seen the droughts in Africa and the flooding and landslides in other parts of the world. Of course, we have our own home-grown landslide on the Rest and Be Thankful but that's for another day. And yes, there seems to be an increasing amount of rain but we just shrug our shoulders and say 'well, that's Scotland for you and that, by the way, is why we make whisky from all that lovely rain water'. Either that, or be like the actor Douglas Henshaw who recently referred to the weather in Greenock as 'pish'.
But for Scots, the nearest thing they get to global warming it seems is the weather forecast in the months from May to September, when they hear how warm it will be in southern England, along with 'meanwhile in Scotland, rain will arrive from the west with temperatures at...' (suffice to say much lower than those on the south coast of England). We are told that renewable energy is the answer, that we shouldn't eat as much meat, if any at all (surely we can still eat square slice and haggis now and again?) and that our vehicles should be electric-powered.
But let's consider that last point – electric vehicles. Let's set aside the cost of the vehicles for now. How are we going to charge them? It's okay for those nice folks in Newton Mearns or Milngavie with their individual homes where they can install a charger in the driveway or garage, but what of the hundreds of thousands that live in tenements across the city? These properties, in the main, were built at the end of the 19th century and maybe early 20th. Currently, there is hardly any parking available so where are you going to put your charger?
When it comes to renewables via windmills, we are told that the environmentalists don't want us to put them in Scotland's windiest area such as the Great Glen as it is an area of scenic beauty. Where then? George Square? Princes Street gardens? On top of the Holyrood Parliament? Then there are those who don't like the look of the windmills off our coasts as it spoils the view – the most famous being Donald Trump who objects vehemently to those off the coast of his golf club in Aberdeenshire.
But in all seriousness, what should the ordinary Glaswegian do about climate change? I might have missed it but I haven't seen any 'Guide to reducing Climate Change' instructions being sent around. We are told we should all recycle but where are the facilities for that? I'm not talking about the bottle banks at supermarket car parks. What about the bin areas in the back courts of the tenements? The back courts are usually lucky to have one bin for each flat but none for recycling. So let's build some! Where? And are the kitchens in the tenement flats large enough to have an area for a recycling bin and a general rubbish bin? And therein lies the problem. I'm sure there are many people who try to recycle and others who just don't have the space to do so.
We have 30,000 delegates talking about what we
must do to stop the Earth overheating plus the world's media in Glasgow – now that's a carbon footprint. There are even some billionaires on hand to have tea with HRH Prince Charles at Dumfries House – Jeff Bezos arrived in his private jet having spent last week with Bill Gates on his multi-million dollar yacht.
I wonder if these climate change billionaires, rather than float around the world in the jets or yachts, could follow the example of Johan Eliasch, the Swedish billionaire who has bought 400 acres of the Amazon forest for it to be conserved. Now that's putting your money where your mouth is, instead of spending billions on 'Space Tourism'.
The great and the good from all over the world are gathered in our Dear Green Place – pity about the binmen being on strike. There's traffic chaos all over the city and hospitality businesses, rather than making a fortune off the 30,000 delegates, are saying that because folks can't get into the city, trade is down. And there is the threat that COP26 is a Covid super-spreader event. But at least Glasgow's name is being put all over the world – well, apart from on CNN where Wolf Blitzer tweeted a photo of himself in Edinburgh where he said COP26 was being held.
The 120 world leaders will no doubt pat each other on the back as they tell us how many billions they will spend on climate change and how much will be sent to the poorest countries in the world. Then they will hop on their private jets and fly home, leaving Glaswegians to wonder, when they hear on the weather forecast that the temperatures in southern England are much better than ours, if perhaps global warming just passed us by.
Dermot McQuarrie is a Greenock-born broadcaster who has worked throughout the world. For the past 25 years, he has lived and worked in the USA where he was Senior Vice President of Production and Programming for Fox Sports