It is all too easy to imagine that science will solve the problem of climate change.

Assumptions about the capacity of scientists and engineers to save us all from having to alter our lifestyles are widespread. Tony Blair once made clear he thought it unrealistic for people to take fewer long haul flights and that scientists would find ways of making air travel more energy efficient. Cars will soon run on chip fat or hydrogen, we like to believe, so no need to cut journeys. No harm in using energy because renewables will replace carbon-producing technologies.

When scientists point out that, globally, governments and individuals are simply not doing enough to limit the greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere, we place even more pressure on the engineers. We wonder why they can't just find a way of "sucking" all that excess carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. We look to them to perform artificial photosynthesis on a grand scale, or reflect the sun's radiation back from the earth to stall the warming process.

At the same time, with the global population still growing, we expect scientists to come up with ways of producing vastly more food while also demanding that our governments protect the natural environment for our enjoyment and conserve the species that occupy it. And we demand this as weather patterns are becoming more unpredictable, probably at least in part because of climate change, characterised by more drought and flooding.

What we all secretly yearn for, in short, is for science to make climate change go away.

Scientists have indeed bust their guts trying to meet those inflated expectations. Biofuels are on the increase (though still account for about five per cent of what we buy at the pump and in any case have implications for land use and food prices), renewable energy technologies are expanding (though UK carbon emissions rose last year); there is work being done on artificial indoor multi-storey "farms" (where food can be produced, not in soil but in nutrient solution) while artificial photosynthesis and ways of injecting particles into the atmosphere to shade Earth from the sun's rays are undergoing serious research.

But these technologies, some of them currently unproven, do not amount to a miraculous solution and now the scientists are telling it like it is. Studies of geo-engineering - trying to manipulate the climate artificially - have found that the knock-on effects are very complicated. Trying to block the sun's rays, for instance, could seriously disrupt rainfall in places like India and Africa, harming very many people. Researchers believe these methods should still be studied because they might have to be contemplated if accelerated climate change threatens to take hold, but do not hide the fact that they personally find the idea "terrifying."

Where does this leave us? Back with trying to reduce carbon emissions. It is no good just a handful of countries doing it. All governments need to do more, for the good of their own populations, and so do individuals, because it is increasingly clear that science alone cannot come to the rescue.