This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

The seashore is covered by green algae in Shandong province, China. Researchers have attributed the phenomenon in part to climate change. (Imaginechina via AP Images)

The Nathaniel Rich New York Times Magazine story on climate change research and policy — and how close we came to actually doing something in the 1980s to try and mitigate the looming disaster — clocks in at 30,000 words. All 30,000 of them are worth reading, although at the end of the day, the denouement requires just over 100.

The meeting began in the morning and continued into the night, much longer than expected; most of the delegates had come to the conference ready to sign the Dutch proposal. Each time the doors opened and a minister headed to the bathroom at the other end of the hall, the activists leapt up, asking for an update. The ministers maintained a studied silence, but as the negotiations went past midnight, their aggravation was recorded in their stricken faces and opened collars.

“What’s happening?” Becker shouted, for the hundredth time, as the Swedish minister surfaced.

“Your government,” the minister said, “is fucking this thing up!”

The decade-long lead in to the final fuckup is equal parts fascinating and infuriating, and makes the ongoing “debate” about whether climate change is really happening all the more ludicrous.

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