The experts have been warning us for years this would happen. They looked at the data, noted the increasing frequency with which unlikely and catastrophic events were occurring, and became increasingly shrill, urging us not to ignore them.
But ignore them we did. We just couldn’t imagine that disaster on this scale – something that could trigger economic collapse and ruin the lives of generations yet unborn – could ever actually befall us. And the old and rich, the ones who’d have to do most to change their ways to prevent it, didn’t seem to care. Some didn’t believe it; others suggested it might actually be rather a good thing.
And so here we are. Boris Johnson is leader of the Conservative Party, and will be prime minister by tomorrow night.
In unrelated news, it’s going to be 38C in London on Thursday, and climate catastrophe may doom human civilisation before the century is out. But (this is how we got into this mess) let’s not worry about that right now.
The confluence of those two events makes me feel like maybe I’m living in the backdrop for a particularly bad coming-of-age novel. Forgive the use of this phrase so close to the name “Boris Johnson”, but: it’s a bit pathetic fallacy, isn’t it? A bit too on the nose? The week he finally ascends to the top job and Britain is so hot that an entirely plausible cause of death this week is “commuting via the Central line”. It’s like the entire planet is reminding us that we’re fucked.
Because there’s another thing that the imminent Johnson premiership has in common with the imminent climate apocalypse: it’s only going to get worse. There will come a day, sooner than you think, when you look back on 23 July 2019 and think how good we had it now. This has been true for a while, of course – remember the first half of 2016, when we thought it was a bad year because much-loved celebs kept dropping like flies? We didn’t know we were born.
Let’s roll the tape forward a bit on Britain’s new government. Who will be in Johnson’s cabinet? Most of the senior ministers in the “yes, they’re right-wing Tories but at least they’re not at war with reality” category – your Hammonds, your Stewarts, your Gaukes – have already announced that they won’t serve, in the same kind of way that I am announcing here that I will not be joining the cast of Love Island.
But many of the names that are being floated are out-right terrifying. Jacob Rees-Mogg could finally be given the sort of job that justifies his recent prominence on the Today programme. Dominic Raab – who clearly thinks he could be on Love Island, winning Amber over with his cheeky objectivist charm and his helpful explanations of how feminism is a cancer – is a plausible candidate for home secretary. There’s even been talk of Priti Patel as chancellor, which must be a joke, in roughly the same way as the inevitability of death is, from some perspectives, a joke.
Yet what this government, with a functional majority of two, will actually be able to do is not exactly clear. If we’ve learned anything these last six months, it’s that the current parliament is vanishingly unlikely to pass a Brexit deal, but still won’t do anything – dissolve itself; arrange a second referendum – that might actually break the deadlock.
With the Brexit clock ticking down, and the Tory party unlikely to stomach another extension, all signs point towards no-deal Brexit and the scariest Halloween Britain has ever seen. I wrote yesterday that Boris Johnson seemed a big vague on what he wanted to be prime minister for; but I doubt even he’s considered the possibility that he’d been singled out by history to launch a brave new era of food and medicine shortages, and to remake the Garden of England as a lorry-park.
And meanwhile, the mercury rises, and the hands on the climate Doomsday Clock tick forward yet again. “LOL we’re all going to die,” we tweet, in response to the latest political news. “Yes, we know,” replies Mother Nature, and fries another pigeon.
That’s something else that prime minister Boris Johnson and imminent climate apocalypse have in common. Both make me want to start drinking in the middle of the day. Can I go home now, please?