We were all spooked by it – the idea of a nuclear holocaust that would obliterate the world.

As boys we talked about it a lot, at no time more so than after reading Nevil Shute’s ‘On the Beach’. Set in Australia this was apocalyptic and desperately human account of the end of the planet.

Now I encounter teenagers spooked by a different end to their world, an end they foresee occurring within their lifetime.

For them the threat is less nuclear than climactically climate – their world quite simply incinerated. For Australians awakening to a red dust clad dawn hanging over Sydney harbour, some must have wondered if that sad day itself had dawned, hard on the heels of promises on climate change on the floor of the United Nations half a world away,

Australia, in the past twenty-four hours has suffered earthquakes, hailstorms and dust attacks. Leaving the earthquakes aside (but we shouldn’t) the red dust storm was ignited by a red sun catching the thick granules of soil erosion blown together from half way across the continent and left to hang on the eastern rim of Australia.

The country has been suffering a drought for the worst part of a decade – acute dryness, acute heat, stoking increasing anxiety that where the Australian climate leads, the world will follow.

How sad that the waiting global community should find their ‘saviour’ Obama doing no more than deploying his acclaimed oratorical skills in offering hope on the issue.

How intriguing to hear China’s Hu Jintao offering to use his totalitarian authority to force his people into carbon reduction (provided we pay for a good bit of it).

As we study the red dawn pictures out of Oz today, maybe we should return to ‘On The Beach’ and our childhood fears. So much to do, so little time.