BREXIT is a sign that civilisation is beginning to break down as a result of climate change, according to the former chair of the UK Government’s Expert Panel on Air Quality Standards.

Professor Anthony Seaton, who researched climate change and air pollution at the University of Aberdeen, believes Brexit is just one of the repercussions of the failure to halt rising temperatures and sea levels.

Now 79, he has written a new book to alert people to the dangers of climate change and the urgent need to tackle it.

Seaton argues that climate change is causing a “tidal wave” of migration with voters in the UK opting for Brexit because of a fear of being swamped by migrants and refugees. He believes civilisation will disintegrate into widespread warfare unless climate change is halted.

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“We are seeing civilisation breaking down in little bits already but people are not making the link with climate change,” he says. “We have got to make the connection.

“People talk about saving the planet but the planet will still be here even if we are not. What we need to save is civilisation and the organisational structures that we have built up in the world.”

IF climate change continues this will all break down in warfare, he believes.

“Brexit is a stepping stone in that direction as it is one advanced country that has suddenly decided it wants to sit on its own,” he says. “That is a very serious tactical error and allowing it to happen has been a political failure.

“Europe has been a proponent of regulation, giving a level playing field for industry and commerce. When that disappears, you get winners and losers, which is what we don’t want.”

He adds: “Brexit comes from a fear of people coming into their patch. People start going into their bunkers – look at Trump and his wall. This is a response to migration, which is caused because climate change is forcing people to migrate.

“Insects have already been migrating for decades, animals are doing it or dying and people are migrating because the land is so dry they can’t grow crops. It is becoming a tidal wave.”

Seaton points out that climate change is happening now and at a faster rate than was originally predicted.

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“Unfortunately, it is already causing problems – the recent wild fires in California were caused by climate change and the Highlands registered the highest ever November temperature this year at 17 degrees.”

PROFESSOR Seaton chaired the UK Government’s Expert Panel on Air Quality Standards for a decade until 2001. The panel proposed all the air quality standards that were accepted by the UK Government and which also became EU standards.

Prior to that, he led research at the Scottish Institute of Occupational Medicine, which proved chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) was caused by inhaling coal dust and resulted in miners who contracted the disease being awarded compensation.

His new book, Farewell King Coal, gives a brief history of coal mining and the technological advances coal has made possible, as well as its effects on health and air pollution and the effect of fossil fuel combustion on climate change.

“My book is an attempt to explain to the general public what I have been teaching for many years,” he says. “It makes connections which perhaps other people have not made.”

THE latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report from the UN warns that the world has already heated up by one degree on average compared with pre-industrial times.

“Climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security and economic growth are projected to increase with global warming of 1.5 degrees and increase further with two degrees,” states the report.

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Professor Seaton says he has written the book because one of the remaining issues in his life was to highlight the importance of climate change and the urgency of what is needed to tackle it.

“Climate change is the most important problem facing us and part of the problem is the excessive use of energy in the rich West,” he adds.

He believes that while Scotland is leading “quite well” on the issue at a national level, the use of renewables, backed by nuclear energy, has to be increased, with a reduction in the use of coal and oil.

HOWEVER, Professor Seaton points out that everyone could adapt their lifestyles to help.

“People blame government but we don’t need these huge cars to drive half a mile to the shops and school,” he says. “We need to use cars more sparingly.

“Eat less meat so that crops are not wasted on feeding cattle,” he explains. “Put solar panels in if you can afford it and if you have savings put them in co-ops that fund solar panels.

“Mostly, from a personal point of view, think about how you transport yourself around. Move away from cars, stop using aeroplanes and lobby councils on transport.”

At the moment, he points out, it is the poor who are suffering most from climate change and says the better-off should attempt to change their attitude.

“Instead of consumers we should think of ourselves as contributors who are making a contribution that can be good or ill,” he says.

Farewell King Coal: From Industrial Triumph To Climatic Disaster by Anthony Seaton is published by Dunedin