This winter has been the hottest ever recorded in Europe.

The EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), which has records going back to 1855, found that this winter was 3.4°C hotter than the average winter temperature of the three decades between 1981 and 2010. The ice wine harvest in Germany failed for the first time ever and snow had to be imported into Sweden and Russia to allow winter sport competitions to go ahead.

Making snow by Sangudo (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Carlo Buontempo, director of C3S, has called it a truly extreme event. Usually average temperature records are broken by only fractions of a degree but this winter has been a whopping 1.4°C warmer than the winter of 2015-16 which was the previous record holder.

Climate scientists expect the number of temperature extremes to increase around the world. Australia has just recorded its two hottest summers and its worst bushfire season; in Antarctica the recorded temperature rose above 20°C for the first time; the heat in the world’s oceans reached a new record level; last year saw a series of British climate records broken.

In November of this year, the UK will be hosting the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26). Our new government appears to have been playing politics with this important event. The organiser has been sacked, celebrity names have refused the job, and the new Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has been appointed to lead the conference, an indication, perhaps, of where the government’s priorities lie.

To reduce the presidency of COP26 to a story about reshuffle politics is to miss the whole point. The world is frighteningly off track from the target, set at the Paris Climate Accord in 2015, of holding global warming to 1.5°C. We appear to be in for 3°C or more, which will be devastating for us and for the ecosystems we rely on. COP26 is the last chance for the world’s governments to agree new carbon-cutting targets that may save us from something truly catastrophic.

More about the dangerous rise in temperature over the past year:

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