An uncomfortable truth about climate targets - with people already struggling to pay bills

The fingerprints of climate change are all around us.

The deluge in Dubai, our own sodden spring, and the planet's warmest January, February and March on record.

It has already been a year of extremes - and we are only three months in.

There is a strong scientific consensus that there is only one way of reigning in the wild weather. The faster we stop pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the sooner global warming slows.

But the politics are more complicated. The Scottish government is not alone in wobbling on its climate commitments.

Before the pandemic, when the global economy was ticking along nicely, world leaders came out one after another with bold promises of reaching net zero by 2050.

Some framed it in terms of environmental necessity, chastened by protesting schoolchildren angry about the world they would inherit.

Others saw economic opportunity. Green jobs, clean growth and a chance to steal a march on nations that were slower to respond.

But COVID crippled the global economy. Productivity slumped and debt soared. And then came the energy crisis and eye-watering inflation.

It's a very different political landscape now.

In the short election cycles of Western democracies, governments are nervously looking at household incomes. Would voters shoulder the costs of a green transition and still re-elect the people in charge?

The calculation by the UK government in recent months, and now leaders in Scotland too, is that they won't.

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So Scotland is set to dump its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 75% by 2030.

Ministers have missed eight of the past 12 milestones towards that goal already and it looked out of reach anyway.

But it is a significant moment for a nation that once led the UK on the pace of its green transition - and hosted the UN climate conference just over two years ago.

It means both the Tories on the right and the SNP on the left are back-peddling on climate.

They insist the ultimate goal of net zero by 2050 is intact.

But the science shows the world can't wait until the last minute to all-but-eliminate carbon emissions.

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The IPCC, United Nation's panel of climate experts, says emissions need to be cut by a minimum of 43% from 2019 levels by the end of the decade.

Miss that and keeping the global temperature rise to 1.5C is a pipedream.

At the moment the world is on course to be 2.7C hotter than pre-industrial times by the end of the century.

It doesn't sound like much, but our climate is already increasingly disturbed with the average temperature up just 1.1C.

So governments face a choice if climate targets are abandoned.

Either economies pay the costs of infrastructure damage, insurance and adaptation to a world of more frequent and severe floods, drought and heatwaves.

Or they pay for carbon to removed from the atmosphere later this century with expensive technology that has yet to be proven at scale.

Either way the cost of doing nothing will be more than the cost of reaching net zero.

But it's an uncomfortable truth when people are struggling to pay household bills right now.