The floods in Germany and elsewhere on the Continent make for terrifying viewing; whole swathes of towns have been washed away, and more than 180 people are known to have died.

As well as coverage of the catastrophic impact on those directly affected, there has been almost as much on climate change – an issue never far from the top of the news agenda in any case – and the arguments for rapid, effective changes in policy to deal with it.

That’s understandable. Very few people argue – indeed, unless they had never thought about it ever argued – that climate change is a myth, or that it does not create extreme weather events. A small minority, against an overwhelming scientific consensus, does argue something slightly different: that the man-made components of climate change are overstated, and that the predictions of the most disastrous outcomes are exaggerated.

The experts are almost all united against that position. That doesn’t necessarily make it wrong (scientists were once almost unanimously against germ theory, and for a belief in phlogiston and aether). But it certainly tilts the scales against sceptics when weighing the burden of proof. What wouldn’t follow, however, even if the sceptics were right, are claims that we don’t need to do something fairly radical, rapidly, about our behaviour in relation to the environment.

Even those who think natural long-term trends, sunspots and solar flares, or some other consideration are more important than human activity ought not to deny the desirability of reducing pollution, waste, deforestation, environmental damage and the numerous other things that are, after all, at least something we can do something about.

It’s particularly odd for small-c conservatives to resist this argument: landfill being dumped abroad, microplastics in the oceans, and noxious air pollution are global versions of things like litter, vandalism, waste, inconsiderate parking or fly-tipping that most exercise them in local politics. Reducing these harms would be worthwhile, even if you doubt most expert opinion, or think that doom-mongers undermine their case by overstating it.

Outfits such as Extinction Rebellion, far-Left agitators who view green issues as a lever against capitalism, and those who view economic growth as bad in itself, certainly do that. Pessimistic predictions on famine and global poverty or from population cranks were all the opposite of what actually happened over the past few decades.

If they were interested in effective results and the evidence, they’d be arguing for GM crops, nuclear fuel, and more trade, while directing their tiresome stunts at the Communist government of China (which produces 27 per cent of emissions, more than the entire developed world put together), rather than Western societies with ambitious green targets, which have done the most to develop technologies to tackle hazards.

Take, for example, the announcement last week that the EU intends to ban new conventionally fuelled vehicles by 2035. This is a target that the US and then Canada recently adopted, while the UK’s stated policy since last year has been even more ambitious: a ban on all petrol, diesel and even hybrid cars and light trucks by 2030.

No one could argue this is not an expansive policy. It’s certainly an incredibly costly one: and not only in economic terms (the government’s £20million fund for R&D and even its £1.3billion commitment to a charging infrastructure are likely to be a drop in the ocean).

Electric vehicles (EVs) are still out of a lot of people’s price range. Their range, in distance, is much worse than conventional cars – less than 300 miles, compared with the almost 1,000 a modern diesel can do on a tank – which many will find a serious restriction. It would add several hours on a trip from Glasgow to Birmingham, for example. The production of batteries is by no means environmentally friendly and nor, unless we get electricity totally supplied by renewables – a remote prospect – will charging them automatically be an improvement. Or practical: a quarter of all cars are parked on the street.

All the same, this is a carrot and stick approach, should encourage manufacturers and innovation and, over time, reduce prices. But there is the risk that private cars become unaffordable or impractical for many. Some environmentalists regard this as a good in itself, and so it might be if you’re – as so many of them are – well-to-do, and live in a large city with good public transport.

The other measure the EU announced – further aviation tax – has the merit of tackling a cause of pollution, at first glance, much worse than private cars – though the headline figures of 285g of CO2 per passenger kilometer versus 42g for a car are arguably misleading for reasons such as passenger capacity and time spent idling, and overall, planes produce 2-3 per cent of emissions to the 10 per cent road traffic turns out. An electric plane is not an immediate prospect, and I suspect few of us would get in one if it were.

This, too, is going to produce a divide between those who can afford newer, greener, but pricier technologies, and those who are just going to have to forego the freedom of personal transport, or foreign travel, that many have come to regard as the norm over the past 50 years or so.

That may not bother wealthy environmentalists who virtuously campaign against plastic straws, while trying to deny the least developed countries the chance to draw level with the West, since the stances are roughly analogous. There will be plenty of private planes at Cop 26 in Glasgow this November.

As it happens, deaths from droughts, floods, storms and other extreme weather events have declined by 95 per cent since the early 20th century. Obviously that is not because the weather has got better, but because technology, policy, equipment and expertise have got better at coping with the problems. That ought to offer hope.

But in Germany, the authorities had nine days’ notice of the floods to come: the question is why their emergency preparations and warning systems failed. In the face of Mother Nature, that may be a lesson in concentrating on what is possible, rather than jeremiads and impossible demands. But it means higher costs and more sacrifice than paying 10p for a plastic bag, or bothering to put it in the recycling. We need to be honest about, and ready for, that.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.