Bloomberg was right, Sandy focuses the mind on climate change

But there are less dramatic examples that make a strong case too

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The Independent Online

You don't have to be religious to feel that our lives are being determined by the battle for supremacy between technology and nature. With the advances in medical science come the advent of new diseases. For each technological invention, there's a new disaster to remind us of humankind's fallibility. And when one of the most populous, commercially successful cities, in one of the most developed countries in the world, is laid low by a natural phenomenon of terrifying force, it makes you wonder who's getting the upper hand.

This is New York, remember, where they really thought they were masters of the universe. Extreme weather can make believers of us all and at the very least it can make us believe in climate change. I dare say there are many thousands of New Yorkers who made the same connection that Michael Bloomberg did in the wake of the storm that devastated parts of the city. The gist of the Mayor's analysis ran like this: I'm not saying climate change is a fact, but when you see Fifth Avenue under three feet of water, you know there's something weird going on. From this, he extrapolated an endorsement of Barack Obama, who at least is not an environmental refusenik like Mitt Romney, for tomorrow's Presidential election.

Good for Mr Bloomberg, you may say. Here's a man who is prepared to sacrifice Republican Party allegiance in favour of the greater good. Of course, it's relatively easy to focus people's attention on environmental degradation when they're feeling the effects of it. (I'm not saying there's a straightforward connection between Sandy and global warming, but it's not impossible, either.) So given that it takes a cataclysmic event close to home to turn sceptics into believers and to turn words into action, there may be a sea change, so to speak, in the political agenda. Up until Mayor Bloomberg's intervention, climate change was the unspoken issue in the Presidential race, based on the not unreasonable calculation that, when people are struggling to pay the bills, they're not that motivated by the melting of the polar ice caps.

Natural disasters may focus our minds, but every day, it seems, there are reports of a far less dramatic nature, but which should still make us sit up and take notice. The latest of these is the relatively insignificant disclosure that wine production across the globe will sink to its lowest level for almost 40 years. This is the result of severe weather on the grape harvest, left, but what is noteworthy is that this has not just afflicted a small geographical area, but extends as far apart as France and Argentina, or Hungary and New Zealand.

France, which produces 15 per cent of the world's wine and where the grape harvest was blighted by hailstorms, deluges and a heat wave, has been particularly hard hit, with production down by 20 per cent, and the inevitable consequence on wine prices.

No big deal compared with a hurricane, but the personal is the political, and as more and more people feel the effects of increasingly unpredictable weather patterns, politicians will find the environment changing, in every sense.