Apart from the Middle East, there can have been few more depressing places to be in the world last Tuesday than the UN General Assembly in New York, where an endless queue of world leaders, including Barack Obama and David Cameron, treated an increasingly soporific audience to leaden little appeals for humanity to take urgent action to halt global warming. The purpose of this special meeting, summoned by that dim little nonentity Ban Ki-moon, was to issue a desperate last-minute call for a legally binding treaty in Paris next year, whereby they would all agree to save the planet through an 80 per cent cut in those CO₂ emissions, which are inseparable from almost all the activities of modern civilisation.
For days the usual cheerleaders, such as the BBC and Channel 4 News, had been beating the drum for this “historic” and “important” gathering. Hundreds of thousands of activists from all over the world, joined by Mr Ban in a baseball cap, on Sunday brought the streets of New York to a halt.
As one speaker after another overran their allotted four minutes, even The Guardian could not hide the fact that no one had anything new or interesting to say. “The most powerful speech” apparently came from Leonardo DiCaprio, which recalled a claim made more than 20 years ago by that other Hollywood star, Robert Redford, when he said, on global warming, that it was “time to stop researching and to start acting”. This prompted Richard Lindzen, the physicist and climate-change sceptic, to observe wryly that it seemed “a reasonable suggestion for an actor to make”.