Climate change, primarily caused by the pollution of the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, is a grave threat to humanity. Scotland must play its part in addressing it, and Holyrood has set a target of 42% cuts in emissions by 2020. Targets alone will not save us, though: we need to see immediate progress instead of waiting for tomorrow's technologies to come along.
The world is also facing the end of the age of cheap oil. Even without climate change, this would be an immense challenge in itself. But meeting these two crises together require the same policy shift, towards the kind of low carbon economy which would enable Scotland to thrive now and in the long term.
This is a major challenge, but it is achievable. Indeed, we argue that we can achieve real benefits to society at the same time as cutting emissions and ending oil dependence. The economic cost of inaction would be greater too - the Stern report spelled out in no uncertain terms that failure to act to reduce carbon emissions will cost 20 times more than acting now.
The good news is that by reducing our dependency on oil, and creating an economy driven by clean, safe sources of energy, we can improve our quality of life and generate jobs using Scotland's strong engineering and technology skills base. A low-carbon society will have many benefits: less air pollution, less congested traffic and a more resilient energy system.
Allowing energy consumption to rise year on year will make it impossible to meet climate targets, and will make costs unbearable for households and businesses alike. Poor standards of energy efficiency in much of Scotland's housing stock are the cause of considerable fuel poverty as well as high carbon emissions. Better standards for new homes will help, but only an ambitious programme to insulate all existing housing in Scotland will achieve the progress needed, addressing climate change, poverty and energy security.
Stop trying to build our way out of congestion
Every party which has run government in Scotland to date has failed to break the addiction to road-building, even when it's clear that it just makes the problem worse. Moving to electric vehicles will help reduce emissions directly, but unless we get a grip on traffic levels the energy demand will be astronomical. We need to plan where homes and businesses are build and where public services are delivered, to reduce people's need to drive ever further. Walking, cycling and public transport must be given far higher priority by Government, especially when it comes to public spending.
Serious about renewables
Scotland is home to the biggest renewable energy resource in Europe, but the Scottish Government has been slow to approve major renewable projects and grid upgrade, and has done next to nothing to promote local renewables at community level. Support for developing marine energy has been cut. This must change if we're to have a chance to turn this renewable potential into reality.
Nuclear and coal
Nuclear power is not a low carbon technology: the energy involved in mining, fuel fabrication, construction, transport and waste makes nuclear no 'cleaner' in carbon dioxide production than an efficient gas-powered station. It leaves toxic waste, which will remain a threat to humans for hundreds of years. The costs of cleaning up this waste, already nearly £100bn and rising, will fall to future generations. In addition, nuclear is still based on the supply of a finite fuel, so it's neither clean nor renewable.
With carbon capture and storage, coal might have a continued role to play in the short term. But we don't yet know whether CCS is technically feasible or commercially viable, and it's far too much of a gamble. New coal and nuclear plants are not the answer to energy security, climate change or peak oil.