LAST time I wrote a column about snow, the following day Sergei Skripal was poisoned. So a quick heads up, there, to any double agents who might be reading. At least this time, lockdown should be stopping any Russian tourists coming over to admire Salisbury Cathedral’s world-famous spire.

In the midst of the January gloom, Sunday’s snow was a rare moment of escapism. My daughters are still young enough to get excited enough to wake me with the news that snow has arrived. Crunching across to nearby Hudson’s Field, there were families everywhere enjoying an impromptu spot of sledging and snowman building. Suddenly, it wasn’t 2021 anymore but a timeless moment from a previous winter before anyone could place Wuhan on a map.

But as the snow and ice started to disappear, it wasn’t the only ice melting away this week. On Monday, a report in The Cryosphere revealed that global ice is now accelerating at a record rate, with the loss of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets now in line with the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change’s worst-case scenarios. Between 1994 and 2017, a total of 28 trillion tonnes of ice has been lost. Two thirds of this ice loss is down to the warming of the atmosphere and one third down to the warming of the oceans.

As I’ve said in previous columns, if it wasn’t for coronavirus, then the issue of the environment would be front and centre of a lot of news coverage right now. Even with coronavirus, and the 7 per cent drop in fossil-fuel burning due to lockdowns worldwide, 2020 still ended up being the joint warmest year of all time. The world’s oceans, meanwhile, were at their hottest level since records began. Overall, the year was 1.25C higher than the pre-industrial age average, nudging the planet ever closer to the crucial 1.5C target, beyond which the effects of climate change will accelerate still further.

The one good bit of early 2021 news in all of this was Joe Biden’s inauguration as US president. Already he has re-signed America to the 2015 Paris Agreement and cancelled the Keystone XL oil and gas pipeline. But even the Paris Agreement is no more than a sticking plaster in what is needed. This autumn’s COP15 Biodiversity Conference in Kunming and COP26 Conference in Glasgow are seen on all sides as being crucial in finding a way to tackle climate change and stop these relentless rises in temperature.

That’s going to need governments to come together. It will also, most likely, need all of us to change our lifestyles. If not, snow days like last Sunday will soon become nothing more than a memory of times past.