SELF-harm comes in many forms. One form of it, perhaps, comes in reading the words of Nigel Farage, calling, as he did last weekend, for a referendum on Net Zero. Farage himself describes what he considers to be another, summing up the UK’s net zero strategy as an “act of appalling self-harm”.

Perhaps he can view this as such because, now 57 years old, Mr Brexit views said self as lasting no longer than his own lifetime. A recent IPCC report, however, tells us a little about the kind of planetary self-harm that we are likely to inflict if we don’t deliver on net zero.

“Delay,” it declared, “means death”. But Farage may be in his old age by the time the real impact of this has hit. It’s the kind of self-harm that should make all of us shudder.

I’d like to be able to laugh rather than shudder at Farage, and, indeed, I’ve been laughing at some of the comments about him. Energy UK chief executive Emma Pinchbeck, for instance, who observed she had “not seen a cry for attention this desperate since my toddler put a pair of my husband’s boxer-shorts on her head last week and shouted ‘look at my hat’”.

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Also entertaining has been Have I Got News For You’s tweet: “Nigel Farage launches campaign for ‘referendum on net zero’ which will ask one question – ‘How can Nigel Farage become relevant again?’

But it’s hard to dismiss Farage’s latest wheeze as merely the antics of an irrelevant toddler when there are already signals of shifts within the Tory party on net zero, not least the noises being made by the small Net Zero Scrutiny group.

And while Boris Johnson seems mostly committed to his net zero agenda, gas prices and Ukraine have changed the nature of the debate. The Times even reported a government source who said, “The prime minister is interested in giving the gas industry a climate pass in the transition to nuclear and renewables.”

The pass reportedly sought would not be for the UK, but for the US and Canada, in order to help wean Europe off Russian gas.

These are worrying signs. They suggest that Farage has identified an insecurity out there that he can exploit, and that, in a world of disinformation, inconvenient truths like the scientific consensus on climate are easily dismissed. It suggests he believes climate denialism is still bubbling away strongly enough for him to exploit.

I’ve had, from time to time, my own reservations about aspects of net zero, though they far from chime with Farage’s. What concerns me is the greenwashing that can come with it, the way balance sheets can be manipulated. But, in spite of all this, is seems to me net zero is the one mechanism we have for giving humanity a future.

The referendum proposal is nothing surprising from Farage. This is the man who railed against “ugly disgusting ghastly windmills” as leader of UKIP, who has always had a liking for coal. Now he wants us to get back to fracking and extracting shale gas from the ground in the interests of energy security.

Fortunately, business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has dismissed it for the nonsense it is, pointing out that the UK has no gas supply issues, and that “no amount of shale gas from hundreds of wells dotted across rural England would be enough to lower the European price any time soon”.

The Britain of Farage’s imagination is not just an island geographically, but an island in time, cut off from the future, cut off from the impact of its emissions. It’s a fantasy, a world conjured out of slogans. “Net zero is net stupid.” “Britain means business.” “Power not poverty”. Put them together and they seem simply like the utterings of someone in love with the sound of his own voice.

It’s no wonder that Hugh Grant’s exhortation to Farage to “go f** yourself” went viral. It’s what many of us felt. We could respond with clever words, but the meaningless of Farage’s own suggests it would be better not to bother.

My hope is that the vast majority of people will view him as that attention-seeking toddler, or perceive his message is the last writhings of a pro-fossil fuel agenda that sees itself under threat.

But I also think given Farage’s track record, or that of the populist right in general, we can’t assume they will. It’s as if he knows what pressure points to niggle away at.

We could ignore the silly toddler in the boxer shorts and carry on as usual, assuming that the battle for climate hearts has mostly been won. But that’s not quite enough. We need to fight back, not with meaningless slogans, but with facts, science, reports and with hope. We need to remind people that there is a future. That we are not an island. That our emissions are even more real than money, and they do count.