Drowned worldI told you so is the most painful of phrases. These days we count it in corpses. Glee does not reside in it.
We expect to see the Third World under water. Bangladesh is regularly inundated, garnering little attention from the West. Perhaps we thought that even if the Cassandras of global warming's effects were right, only dark people in faraway places would drown.
A couple of weeks ago, a study reported that the permafrost at northern latitudes had begun to melt. Ice that formed in our prehistory has disappeared. In Alaska, there are reports of trees falling over because the ground has softened. We may yet look back at the thawing of the permafrost (whose name, even, suggests that we expected it to last) as the tipping point, the crisis that saw the runaway train of global warming go over the hill.
What will it take for America to wake up? Its response to the decline of oil is to burn more coal. Its answer to the problem of greenhouse gases is to try to make coal "clean". Coal is not clean. Even if it didn't contain sulphur, burning carbon in any form cannot be made clean with our current technology, if it ever could. And coal cannot fuel your SUVs in any case.
Many of the world's great cities lie on their nation's coasts. Few are quite as vulnerable as New Orleans but neither are they set up to withstand flooding. Even those that are, such as London, which was vulnerable to the tidal bore in the Thames in the past, do not have defences against a significant rise in sea levels. Building them would be an enormous engineering task.
New Orleans will be rebuilt. The hundreds of thousands of refugees will return and set their homes to rights, resume their business and life will begin again. We'll put it down to just another particularly bad hurricane (but don't we seem to be having a lot of them in recent times?). Meanwhile, in the northern Atlantic, the ice continues to melt into the sea, slowing the North Atlantic Conveyor. If it shuts down -- and it might -- there would not be time to build defences on the northern European seaboard. Will we wait until central London is drowned before we take steps to fix the weather that we have caused?