They’re calling it the (new) storm of the century, and if it lives up to the hype it might be the biggest in a hundred years or more. Approximately fifty million people lie in its path along the Eastern US and Canada. Thunderstorms, floods and blizzards are all expected, and some areas are already underwater (NYC, Atlantic City). New York City has begun evacuating coastal areas and shutting down schools and transit. Even Grand Central Station and the NYSE are closed. There’s even fears part of Brooklyn may be flooded by an overflow of toxic poop.

Of course, there’s no way to say for sure that this storm is a result of climate change

Over the past few months we’ve seen the near-complete melt of Greenland’s ice cover, and a record summer loss of Arctic ice. Projections for an ice-free arctic summer are being revised – once thought “possible” by the end of the century, many now fear it’ll come within the next few years. Such records are no longer uncommon – the six largest yearly melts ever measured have all occurred within the last six years.

But surely, it would be irresponsible to draw any conclusions about climate change….

Before that, there were the droughts and heatwaves. Many died, hundreds of thousands lost power, roads buckled and vehicles started to sink into melting asphalt. The US saw its worst drought in fifty years, devastating entire states’ corn and soy harvests.

Seriously, what possible connection could exist between droughts and severe thunderstorms?

I don’t want to imply that the dire predictions of climate scientists are coming true, because they aren’t. What we’re now witnessing is well beyond the “worst case scenarios” they presented. From the flooding of New York to the melting of the arctic and collapse of major farming regions, we were warned that these things might happen by the end of the century. All things considered, it could have been much worse – but as infamous as it may be, 2012 is just one year. What will things look like in a decade?

A close friend of mine, a doctor, often tells a story about a patient years ago who’d just been diagnosed with lung cancer. He was irate – why didn’t anybody warn him that decades of cigarettes would lead to that!?! A bit confused, she asked, “surely, somebody must have warned you…?”, but he simply replied “…yeah…they told it might cause cancer. If they’d told me it was going to, then I would’ve quit”. Our planet, it seems has a very similar philosophy. Like cancer, we won’t know whether our bad behavior has destabilized the climate until it already has, and at that point it may well be too late to reverse the process. For all we know, we may already have passed this “tipping point”.

How many major American cities need to sink before climate change is taken seriously?