What are they on about?

1st December 2000 at 00:00
David Newnham advises staying cool on global warming

You know what they say? They say that a change is as good as a rest. And you know what I say? I say you can have too much of a good thing.

I am talking, of course, about the weather. More particularly, I am talking about climate change. Most particularly of all, I am talking about the way that climate change keeps changing. I just can't keep up.

A few years ago, only conspiracy theorists and rainbow warriors talked of greenhouse gases defrosting the poles and filling our oceans with nice cold, ice cold water. Most scientists agreed that global warming was a measurable phenomenon. But climate change? You'd find it in The X-Files, next to Invasion by Giant Asparagus.

Of course we, the General Public, craving variety and scenting a cover-up, readily attributed every Whitsun blizzard to global warming. Hottest May since records began? Wettest June since Noah's Flood? It's climate change, we tutted. The end is nigh.

But apparently not. For each and every news story about freak weather would ed with an official denial. Nothing was happening that could not be explained by the usual climatic fluctuations. Now just calm down and keep eating the burgers.

Then, like an October sky, the mood darkened. One morning, we woke up to find that climate change was official. And it was deadly serious.

How could we be sure? Forget Kyoto. The real barometer of this new acceptance was Gardener's World. Week after week, shirt-sleeved horticulturalists explained smugly how they were readying themselves for imminent desertification, and we would be well advised to do likewise.

Buy rock plants, they said, because water would soon be a thing of the past. Any day now, reservoirs would dry up and Essex would vanish beneath a blanket of wind-blown sand.

And then it started raining. By autumn, it was raining so hard that even Yorkshire Water had stopped moaning about drought. And the outlook was more of the same.

Climate change had changed - from hot and dry to wet and windy. And come the first sign of fog, I've no doubt it will change again.

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