In the age of the Iraq war and Obamacare, the government is hardly a trustworthy body.

The 841-page National Climate Assessment released by the US government this week has been described as ‘sobering”, but Americans do not appear sobered. The report goes into astonishing detail about what severe climate change would mean – and what it means already to specific villages, mountains and beaches.

Permafrost is melting in Alaska. Storms are bringing more rain to New England. Bark beetles are multiplying out west. The warnings have been jazzed up with user-friendly graphic interfaces on the government website, the report’s dozens of authors have been made available to the press, and President Barack Obama discussed the report with TV weathermen before travelling around the country to talk about it.

Americans have been receiving such warnings for a decade. None has managed to rouse the country from its seeming indifference. Asked by The Wall Street Journal and NBC in January which of 15 issues were an ‘absolute priority for this year”, Americans ranked climate change last, far behind jobs, the minimum wage and the Iranian nuclear bomb.

Almost a third of voters (29 per cent) said nothing should be done about it at all. According to […]

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