By 16 September this year, the area covered by Arctic ice had shrunk to 1.6 million square miles. The ice always contracts over the summer - but not this much: the previous low was 2.05 million square miles, recorded in 2005. Earlier in the year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that sea levels are rising at 20 times the average rate over the past 3,000 years. In the history books of the future, 2007 will be recorded as the year that the threat posed by climate change became irrefutable, imminent and catastrophic. The question is whether 2008 will be written up as the year we did something about it.
At the moment, fewer than one in 20 of us have made significant changes in our lives to reduce our environmental impact. The fossil- fuelled juggernaut of the hyper-mobile consumerist economy has barely touched its brakes. At an individual level, many of us salve our consciences by recycling our newspapers and buying Ecover washing-up liquid, while continuing to drive to the airport for our flights to continental Europe and beyond.
At a political level, the prime minister (when he was chancellor) could declare 'a new ambition for Britain... to lead the world in creating a stable and sustainable economy founded on low carbon - a Britain that is both pro-growth and pro-green'. But then the Government can build new runways and widen motorways without even the appearance of any cognitive dissonance. Since Labour came to power in 1997, the cost of motoring has fallen by 6%, while train fares have jumped by 7% and bus fares by 16%.