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The Guardian view on Europe’s heatwave: the door is closing – but there is a way out | Editorial

Temperature records have toppled across the continent. Governments must not delay any longer

Warm winter days do not instinctively feel like an extreme weather event. Unlike the freezing bomb cyclone endured by the US at Christmas, or the floods that swept through the Philippines, they are unlikely to cause immediate widespread death and devastation. At a time when soaring energy costs have pushed so many into poverty, many will have welcomed the warmth that has been felt across Europe, especially the millions in Ukraine suffering due to Russia’s attacks on its power infrastructure.

Yet the heatwave should alarm us all. Though it may have been less punitive to experience than last summer’s record temperatures, which led to thousands of deaths, it has spread across many more countries. “We can regard this as the most extreme event in European history,” said one climatologist. Poland, where the average January temperature is around 1C, saw the thermometer climb to 19C on New Year’s Day. At least seven more European countries have seen record highs. Ski resorts closed slopes or resorted to artificial snow. Though the weather might seem mild, it is disrupting crops and wildlife, and of course sudden thaws can lead to avalanches or floods.

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