I N 1745, AS the river Liffey, having broken its banks, clawed at the foundations of the house in which he sat, the young Edmund Burke experienced a strange, perverse thrill. The man who would go on to found modern conservatism drew inspiration from this experience in a later essay on the sublime, writing of the unmatched delight that terrible destruction could stir—provided that it is watched from a certain distance. The most terrible thing about the spectacular scenes of destruction that have played out around the world over the past weeks is that there is no safe place from which to observe them. The ground under the German town of Erftstadt is torn apart like tissue paper by flood waters; Lytton in British Columbia is burned from the map just a day after setting a freakishly high temperature record; cars float like dead fish through the streets-turned-canals in the Chinese city of Zhengzhou. All the world feels at risk, and most of it is. Greenhouse-gas emissions have produced a planet more than 1°C (1.8°F) warmer than it was in Burke's pre-industrial days. Its atmosphere, stoked up and out of joint, is producing heavy weather in ways both predicted and… Read full this story
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