Opinion: Avoid knee-jerk policies when it comes to climate change

I have never been a climate change denier; but I was a climate change agnostic.

My scepticism was based on a number of factors, not least contradictory statements by some scientists who, one might have assumed, having studied the same data, would have arrived at the same conclusions.

See also: Why farming’s being asked to do more to fight climate change

I was also cynical at the spectacle of the world’s politicians flying around the globe to fashionable venues to debate what should be done while staying in five-star carbon-guzzling hotels.

And having enjoyed such luxury for several days and nights, they seldom agree anything substantial enough to tackle the scale of the problem that was claimed.

The behaviour of politicians does not, of course, invalidate climate change, although it may provide them with excuses to raise taxes.

Furthermore, I have lived long enough to have experienced many extremes of weather and to recognise that a few hot summers or cold winters do not constitute a fundamental change that might take hundreds of years.

However, the time has come for me to modify my approach. Crucial to this have been the TV programmes fronted by Sir David Attenborough who is surely on the way to sainthood.

His programmes, which cost a fortune to film, are transmitted worldwide so they influence many more millions than view them in this country.

And then, of course, there’s Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish Aspergers sufferer whose Friday school strikes outside the Swedish parliament provided the inspiration for children around the world to copy her actions.

Without a doubt she is a remarkable young woman who, over the course of just a few months, has been invited to speak to the United Nations’ climate change conference in Poland, the European Parliament, the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Pope and a cross-party gathering of British MPs, never mind the protesters who brought London to a standstill over Easter.

It would, of course, seem sacrilegious to suggest Greta Thunberg or David Attenborough may be exaggerating some of their doomwatch predictions, although flaws have been identified in some of their arguments.

Such is their influence that responses by politicians around the world are inevitable. Don’t misunderstand me. I now believe appropriate actions are necessary.

But measures taken in panic can do more harm than good. The Drax power station, for instance, is now fuelled by woodchips following a government ban on coal. But the chips are imported from the US and derived from hardwood trees that take up to a hundred years to mature.

Similarly, an EU ruling stating that motor fuel at pumps must contain 10% of biofuel has led to widespread destruction of forests in Borneo to make room to grow palm trees for cheap palm oil.

As already suggested, we must take climate change seriously. But farming in particular will be affected and we will have to endure tighter restrictions on our activities.

But as governments impose new regulations, they must not be drawn into situations or espouse targets that are unattainable.

Nor must they take panic measures that inhibit the production of food, cost a lot and do more harm than good. In other words, they must think carefully and avoid unintended consequences.

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