IN my mind, Scottish bank holidays are enduringly linked with gale-force winds, driving rain, blasts of hail and snow, even tornadoes – and that’s just the one in August.

So it came as a delightful novelty to have just enjoyed a holiday weekend of bright sunshine, balmy breezes and temperatures soaring to 22 degrees. This was as warm as Brisbane, Cairo, Johannesburg, Las Vegas or Shanghai.

I did wonder why these other places in more tropical regions seemed suddenly to have got quite so cool. But in general I am no longer the climate change sceptic

I used to be, with my favourite line: “Yes, I believe in climate change – I call it weather/”

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If I can pin down my moment of reluctant conversion to this new religion (high priest, St David Attenborough), it would have been when I went back to the Valais, the Swiss canton where I had spent happy holidays in my teens.

The Valais is a long, narrow alpine valley stretching from Lake Geneva in the west to the headwaters of the River Rhone in the east. The source of the river is actually a glacier, and in those days you could walk right into it through a tunnel dug out for the purpose – horribly exciting, all dripping and slippery, endowed with menace by the eerie blue light shining through the ice.

But, when I returned a few years ago, I was shocked to find the glacier had vanished. Or rather, it was only to be glimpsed perhaps a mile away up its mountain, gradually melting into the waters that ran down what had once been its barren, rocky bed. Heaven knows how many megatons of ice had disappeared meanwhile.

They had been there since the last ice age 12,000 years ago, and they are obviously not coming back any time soon.

The National: Sir David Attenborough has been vocal in warning of the dangers of climate changeSir David Attenborough has been vocal in warning of the dangers of climate change

Even accepting the reality of climate change, however, I find it hard to credit an imminent ecological catastrophe, like the one the Extinction Rebellion demonstrators have been shouting about. The human race has, after all, faced and overcome far more severe phases of climate change. Right round Scotland you can climb up to raised beaches, some of them

60 metres above the present sea level. They were shorelines in prehistoric times, formed when there was far more water in the oceans during the interglacial periods. Homo sapiens somehow survived those trials in an era of technology which had flint-stones at its cutting edge.

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But now, with modern technology, the Scottish Government has an official target for 2032, compared to 1990, of reducing carbon emissions by two-thirds. Even if we reached such an ambitious goal it would, in such a wee country, count for little on a global scale. There are two reasons why similar objectives meet resistance elsewhere.

Brazilians, for example, point out that 1000 years ago Europeans dwelled under a thick cover of trees (including the Caledonian Forest) which has vanished from our modern urban societies feeding themselves through heavily subsidised agribusiness. These societies enjoy incomes far higher than Brazil’s – an annual average of $38,500 per head as opposed to $11,200. I dare say there are many Brazilians who fancy a share of our living standards.

They understandably pose the question of why it is their job to carry out all the carbon capture in the huge Amazonian basin, with nothing in reward but love letters from us telling them how environmentally virtuous they are. If I were one of them, I would be looking forward in rather less than 1000 years to my own country, too, being covered no longer with jungle but with wealthy cities nourished by genetically modified farming.

The second sort of resistance to climate targets comes from nations big enough, ugly enough and tough enough to care not a fig for the scruples of effete Europeans: Chairman Xi’s China and Donald Trump’s America.

China has carbon emissions of 10,000 metric tonnes a year and the US has emissions of 5000 metric tonnes. Unfortunately, these are also the two largest economies in the world and they will stay that way if they refuse to spend any of their resources on environmental controls.

At the same time, we cannot escape in our own soil, air and waters the effects of their pollution. We might as well keep trying for international regulation at the governmental level, but its prospects appear dim.

At this point, I want to introduce another of my favourite Nobel laureates in economics, William Nordhaus of Yale University, who won the prize last year “for integrating climate change into long-run macroeconomic analysis”.

In a versatile career, this is only one of the topics he has transformed. I recommend his latest book, written in layman’s terms, The Climate Casino: Risk, Uncertainty And Economics For A Warming World.

Nordhaus stands consciously in the intellectual tradition founded by John Maynard Keynes. He therefore favours selective state intervention in the capitalist economy, so he is a bit of a lefty from my classical liberal point of view.

In one of his responses to climate change, he was the author of the concept of a carbon tax now introduced or contemplated in an increasing number of countries round the world, though not in the UK. The problem is that it raises the end-prices of goods for the consumer, which may be painful in an era of austerity. This was why Tony Blair’s government surrendered to protests at the petrol pumps and abandoned automatic annual increases for fuel tax in 2000. Environmental virtue can threaten the living standards of the poor especially. That does not seem to worry Extinction Rebellion.

Here is the reason why Nordhaus remains also an advocate of economic growth, in keeping with the original purpose of the whole panoply of Keynesian policy. To put it another way, he has no truck with the Green argument that growth is an enemy of welfare, and especially of the environment. Look at the Nobel citation again: his is a “long-run” analysis. He does not, like the professional alarmist Attenborough, believe we are heading for catastrophe in the short run. On the contrary, he thinks that, given the countervailing action on climate already possible or in prospect, we can keep going much as we are till 2050 or 2060, with any damage to agriculture being balanced by higher incomes.

Trends already in evidence might indeed point to some kind of crunch in a few decades’ time. But in Nordhaus’s “long run” analysis there will also have been technological advances enabling us to deal with the crunch: it is not as though, in the 21st century, the rate of scientific progress is likely to slow down. For advances of this degree of sophistication, economic growth is vital if living standards are to be maintained too.

There are no magic wands to wave and dispel climate change. But we can reduce the risks, which is as much as human beings of any era will ever be able to expect of the world they live in. We are not all doomed.