Thursday 19 January 2017 13.17 GMT
Tomorrow the world shudders as Donald Trump becomes US president. Hopes that wise advisers would mitigate the erratic, half-crazed stream of contradictions pouring from his lips have been dashed as he picks fake news purveyors and climate change-deniers for his close consiglieri.
For these 24 hours the Guardian is marking the event with reporting from all seven continents on the effects of climate change happening right now, following the sun as day breaks around the world. Reports from every continent tell of rising seas, melting ice, warming tundra, scorching heat and a Gulf stream that may shift to freeze us here, as manmade global warming risks reaching the point of no return.
The idea is to make us all stop and think. For example, we commentators on politics and society need to ask ourselves what’s wrong with us? Why is it that we mostly ignore this fast-approaching cataclysm, as we write about daily political dramas instead – Theresa May’s Brexit speech in Davos today, Jeremy Corbyn’s failed joke at PMQs yesterday, Boris Johnson comparing the potential behaviour of the French president to that of a Nazi prison camp guard.
The trouble with climate change as a political issue is that it’s too big to grasp, too ever-present. An occasional fixed point of global decision – the dramatic last-minute signing of the Paris climate change deal – briefly flashes up on the political grid, but once over, it falls back as if done and dusted. The planet is heating up fast – but not fast enough for the hungry 24-hour news cycle.
One problem: it’s hard for politicians, commentators and the public to worry about several things at once. The high-octane anxiety over Trump and Brexit absorbs all political energy: fear-fatigue can’t accommodate too much at once. Climate change is background noise, the slow roll of distant thunder. Like anyone not a denier, I am always aware of it and sometimes add “and climate change” to the list of monster crises ahead. Getting it right to the forefront of the brain, ahead of everything else, forcing politicians and public to put planet survival first, second and third in their priorities, that’s the great task.