AS runaway climate change alters the physical experience of summer, possibly permanently, people from these shores are navigating how to – or whether to – travel abroad, and some minds are turning to what this means for Scotland.

Like with most things, we are anywhere between 20 and 50 years too late in our thinking.

As Italy and Spain burn up – and places like Sudan begin an exodus – the issue of climate refugees and radically altered tourism patterns looms large.

Of course attitudes to refugee status and immigration are laced with racism, and in this country we have (as yet) no alternative but to abide by the British state’s horrendous new laws.

The tourism industry is basically flipping. While previous patterns showed people from northern Europe visiting the south for heat and sun, now some of these parts have become virtually uninhabitable at certain times of the year.

Inland communities and big cities will just bake for three months of the year unless and until radical redesigns are implemented and the necessary climate action is taken.

But as we know it’s the emissions already “out there” that will continue to have an impact. Climate change and its consequences are not like a switch you can turn on and off.

The geographer Cameron McNeish last week raised a pertinent question: “How is the Scottish Government preparing for future over-tourism when Brits won’t want to travel to very hot countries and Europeans come to Scotland to escape the heat? What new infrastructure is planned?”

I suspect we all know the answer to this already.

Questioning tourism is met with stony silence, as if talking to the Mayor of Amity Island. This is the cash cow and the industry is deeply embedded in long-term planning for how to “develop” the industry.

You might think that the pandemic experience – a brief glimpse into clear skies and clean air – would have been a stepping stone into a different future but you’d be completely wrong.

Last year, Edinburgh Airport saw international fliers increase by 435%. The number of people travelling through Edinburgh Airport went from 1,530,909 in 2021 to 8,197,756 in 2022, an increase of 6,666,847 people, or 435%.

The number of domestic fliers saw a less pronounced jump, going from 1,500,231 in 2021 to 3,064,117 in 2022, an increase of 1,563,886 or 104% – still a massive increase.

Where, I hear you ask, is the strategy to create low carbon or no-carbon travel alternatives? I suspect we all also know the answer to this one too.

There are countries which take seriously alternative travel routes, whether that is by sail or train or by bike. But you’re not in one of those.

Other than mass flying, the other industry that’s actively being encouraged here is the cruise industry, another industry that briefly looked as if it might collapse through the Covid pandemic.

Who wants to travel on a huge floating petri-dish that belches massive emissions? Lots apparently.

Now they’re building a massive cruise ship terminal by blasting away the beautiful entrance to Stornoway harbour.

The World of Cruising (in-house mag) gushes: “It’s all go for Stornoway! The Hebridean capital has breached record numbers of cruise ship visitors, and that’s before the new deep water cruise port opens next year.

“Big things are on the horizon, and it’s about time...

“There has been a welcome boost for businesses in the Outer Hebrides lately, with an influx of cruise passengers lapping up the culture. All that activity has subsequently injected the Hebridean economy with much needed buoyancy.”

It continues: “The seven-day period ending on July 6 proved to be the busiest cruising week on record, with more than 8000 passengers from seven cruise ships absorbing the area’s unique mantra.

“We reckon that records could be broken several times over the next two years.

“And it’s about time that Stornoway made the spotlight, as the Outer Hebrides – arguably – makes for the greatest British cruise destination on offer.

“The best bit? All that progress comes before the opening of Stornoway Port’s deep water terminal, set to unlock the Hebrides for cruise ships previously banished from port due to excessive dimensions.

“Suddenly, the Hebridean economic future looks very bright, indeed.”

Another take could be that cruise ships disgorge thousands of people onto rural communities to little economic benefit. They don’t stay there and they often don’t eat there either.

Already word is that the infrastructure around Callanish and Rodel can’t cope – much like the infrastructure around key sites on Skye are completely overwhelmed.

Will anyone listen, is any alternative planned? Absolutely not. Are we serious about changing society and culture to really respond to the climate breakdown? I suspect we all know the answer to this already.

OF course some places, like Venice and Amsterdam have begun to take action to curtail the massive over-tourism they have suffered that has overwhelmed their cities and destroyed aspects of their culture.

But that would require a local resistance and agency we do not have here. The legislation to curb short-term lets is pathetic and at least a decade too late and the proposals for a tourist tax have been hijacked by those very people who have profiteered from the situation.

In this sense, urban and rural Scotland are mirrors of each other, places where local resources are over-used by people who bring little to the economy while locals cling on in adversity ignored and often exploited by an industry nobody wants to talk about.

In Amsterdam, the council has banned cruise ships from the city centre as the Dutch capital tries to limit visitor numbers and curb pollution. Aside from the cultural impact of massive over-tourism (hello Edinburgh!) the other key reason for removing cruise ships is to lower air pollution levels in Amsterdam.

A 2021 study of one big cruise ship found that it had produced the same levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx) in one day as 30,000 trucks.

Of course the media reports things like the massive expansion of flights through Edinburgh Airport or the Stornoway expansion as great news stories. We are still lashed to the central single story we tell ourselves of economic growth forever and ever on a finite planet.

This is a fairy tale and it’s one with a particularly grim ending. The only problem is it’s a fairy tale that you and I are actually living in.

There are a great many industries and practices that can be radically or wholly decarbonised. Aviation isn’t one of them. Sea travel is if we return to sail, which could be beautiful, if radically downscaled.

Speaking the truth about the tourism industry is not popular, but the more you look at these practices they seem wildly stupid given the predicament we are in.