At times in 2010 it felt as if the planet were engaged in a large-scale PR campaign to spread the news about global warming. The fires and drought in Russia, the epic Arctic melt. In Pakistan, floodwaters covered an area the size of England; since that didn’t seem to ram the message home, the Queensland flood at year's end drowned a region larger than France and Germany combined. I mean, the lights were all flashing amber; the message was pretty clear.
But if this was nature's intent, I fear it misspent its media budget. We live in an age of targeted advertising -- you don't waste your money on reaching everyone. Events that happen in poor places like Pakistan or remote places like outback Australia don't make much of an impression on your key audiences. Which in this case would be American voters, charged with electing a Congress that holds, along with the Chinese Communist Party, the keys to the planet's future.
And in this contest, nature was outmatched. The fossil fuel industry, which has so thoroughly polluted the atmosphere, has also managed to pollute the political process; they've changed the political climate almost as powerfully as the physical climate. Jane Mayer, in her powerful New Yorker article on the Koch brothers and their endless funding of every climate skeptic and denier, laid bare the basic plan: two of the richest oil barons in the land setting up front groups ("Citizens for a Sound Economy," "Americans for Prosperity"), funding the birth of the tea party movement and investing tens of millions of dollars in electioneering.