ACTUALLY I do accept that the climate is changing and that the globe is warming, contrary to the assumptions of those who have written in to The National to vent their wrath at my column last week. I had in fact announced my change of mind in a previous piece, on April 23 to be precise, under the heading: ”I am now a climate convert – but humanity isn’t facing extinction”.

The sub who wrote the headline did a good job of summing up my nuanced position so concisely. As ever a man of moderate convictions, I yet cultivate a forceful manner, which is what I need to make people sit up and take notice. Compare and contrast the blandness of Ed Miliband or David Cameron, who never managed to. Compare indeed my climate hero, William Nordhaus of Yale University. This column likes to introduce readers to the latest Nobel laureates in economics, and he won the prize last year “for integrating climate change into long-run macroeconomic analysis”. Nordhaus stands squarely 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.

Like many great men, Nordhaus is modest and self-effacing. His first work on climate change appeared in a journal article groovily entitled “An Optimal Transition Path for Controlling Greenhouse Gases”, which came out in 1992. So he has spent more than a quarter-century quietly working away without winning much by way of personal publicity, only the private esteem of previous Nobel prize-winners.

That was enough because they are the ones consulted about the next recipient in any given year. Nordhaus will naturally be pleased at the recognition, but I don’t suppose it would have bothered him much if he never got any.

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How different from the home life of Greta Thunberg! I think we can take it for granted that Nordhaus knows a good deal more about climate change than she does, since he started creating and extending the subject before she was born. She prefers the emotion she parades before the TV cameras. “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood,” she bawled at the UN, as her tears flowed – this from a product of absolute privilege in the Swedish cultural elite, offspring of successful actors and artists.

Her coddled upbringing left her leisure and time enough to berate her woebegone parents for their air travel and meat eating. These sound like typical adolescent tantrums to me, so I expect she’ll get over them.

I wish her every success in the rest of her acting career. There will be many Nordic noir roles suitable for her.

Nordhaus does not need exhibitionism, because the story he tells in several books and many articles is convincing enough without it. While the globe may indeed be warming, the changes in Gross Domestic Product and, by implication, in human welfare, are going to be trivial on the most plausible assumptions (though it is, of course, possible that some implausible assumption will prove in the end to have been the right one).

The National: Greta Thunberg made an impassioned speech to the UN about climate changeGreta Thunberg made an impassioned speech to the UN about climate change

Since it could take until 2140 for the dreaded four-degree increase on the pre-industrial temperature levels to occur, we may have more than a century to think about countervailing measures. There will be many options: a century was the period that took us from the steam engine to the digital economy, and the rate of scientific advance is speeding up, not slowing down.

It is not as if the right sort of change is absent even now. In the UK, there has been a 40% cut in carbon emissions since 1990, including those from aviation and shipping, which just connect to its territory rather than happen on its territory. In the same period the UK economy has grown by 75%.

Of course more needs to be done. It always does. In particular, meeting the targets set by governments (a net-zero carbon economy for Scotland by 2045, for the UK by 2050) will require faster gains than we have made so far.

No doubt Thunberg owns a smartphone, probably several. Ten years ago it did not exist, and in such a short time it has brought about a vast increase in productivity. This is because productivity involves not only drawing more resources into the economic process but also making better use of existing resources. Since ordinary people do that every day of their lives, it is in fact impossible to halt increases in productivity, or what Thunberg called “fairy tales of eternal economic growth”.

Of course there are steps back for every two steps forwards. Offshore wind capacity will more than triple by 2030 but that won’t be enough if widespread use of electric vehicles increases demand for power. In 2019 we are already likely to have been producing more low-carbon than high-carbon electricity. Wind can start to replace coal now that the cost of offshore generation has fallen by two-thirds in five years. So long as the wind keeps blowing (hardly a problem in Scotland) it can, without subsidy, rival the cost of gas-powered electricity.

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But to construct turbines we need to consume steel on a gigantic scale, and this can only be done in an expanding industrial economy. Even then we will also need to keep nuclear power as an insurance policy, though an expensive one, against windless days.

And the Scottish Government has said it will build no new nuclear power stations, even though old stations are more likely to blow up than new ones.

In any case these unsung achievements, present and to come, will be overshadowed by the continuous belching out of carbon from China or the US. Climate alarmists have yet to tell us just how they will restrain these two superpowers.

“System change” is the answer trotted out, but I wonder from what system to what other system both China and the US are to be simultaneously changed. I suspect that in the end the answer will be capitalism anyway, which is all about the ever more efficient and innovative use of resources.

I am led to this conclusion because what the UK and other European countries have been able to show is that green growth is possible. Indeed, growth is a prerequisite for green policy. Green growth, not skiving school kids, will win the widest public support for necessary policies. Few of us are enthusiasts for national impoverishment, least of all in a country where the governing party has always told us independence will make us richer – and primarily through the consumption of carbon resources (“It’s Scotland’s oil”).

Unless we really are willing to reach for our hair-shirts, the problems of climate change cannot be solved without capitalism. In a transitional period generous subsidies, paid for by government and consumers, have created space and incentives for new forms of energy generation. A cleaner, greener future is in sight beyond the trivialities of plastic straws or long-life light bulbs. The climate conference in Glasgow next year should reorientate priorities, boost green issues and concentrate minds. As that happens, innovation and capitalism can take over.