THE IRONY WAS ALL TOO OBVIOUS. And it happened less than 24 hours after the planet’s three largest polluters – the United States, China and India (in that order) – came together with two other emerging economies (Brazil and South Africa) to thrash out an uneasily brokered, messy political statement on tackling climate change. The statement was forged at Copenhagen in the teeth of opposition from much of the rest of the world after more than a fortnight of bitter wrangling and public posturing.
That was on Saturday, December 19. On Sunday, a massive winter storm buried Washington DC, New York, the American Eastern seaboard and many parts of northern Europe in the deepest snow since the late 1930s. If there is an irony here, it is in that those were the years of the Great Depression, the recession that is frequently being compared to the current, ongoing global economic downturn.
The Great Depression was followed by World War II. What distinguishes the current crisis from the one a generation earlier is climate change or, if one prefers the other expression, global warming. World War III is being fought, as of today, a ship sailing from Shanghai to New York can, in September, circumnavigate the northern hemisphere by passing through the Bering Strait and cutting close to the North Pole, reducing distance by more than 4,800 kilometres. That’s because the ice in the Arctic is melting.