Opinion: White winters another victim of climate change | Environment| All topics from climate change to conservation | DW | 18.12.2015
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Opinion: White winters another victim of climate change

With record-breaking temperatures around the world this winter, DW's Sonya Diehn misses Germany's white winters - and reflects on the absurdity of negotiating a global temperature.

I remember well my first winter in Germany: it was cold, so cold. Living in Leipzig at the time, I was astounded to see people skiing along the forest path on the stretch of park I typically biked through to get downtown.

My second German winter was also harsh. By then in Bonn, I established my own personal limit of 0 degrees Celsius for bike-riding.

Since I am originally from the desert of southern Arizona, German winters took some getting used to.

I was enchanted with how snow transformed the drab surroundings into a "winter wonderland." One of my friends in Bonn had become a sledding enthusiast - she had so much fun, that I bought myself a used sled that spring at a flea market.

But the snow hasn't come again.

Sonya Angelica Diehn, DW Environment Team Leader

Sonya Angelica Diehn leads DW's Environment Team

It's now three years in a row that snow hasn't stuck on the ground here in Bonn for more than a few hours.

In many places around the world, this winter is on track to be the warmest on record. Globally, the winter before had been the warmest on record until this year.

And next year could continue to break records - because the planet is warming. Since pre-industrial times, average global temperature has increased by about a degree Celsius.

Not a good thing

Some people might point out that warmer winters - especially in central Europe - are a boon. Less people will die due to extreme cold, and the growing season is longer. Global warming looks likely to make grape cultivation - and thus wine production - possible in Scandinavia, for example.

Although there might be a few bright spots resulting from global warming, the big picture does not look good. As past years have already indicated, climate change is resulting in more severe storms, heavy flooding, and prolonged heat and dry periods.

This harms ecosystems, and systems we humans depend on: food production, water supply, healthy oceans.

As climate change marches on, around the world - and also in Europe - we will ever more directly feel the results of this massive experiment that humans are conducting with the Earth.

Kids sledding in Germany

Winter sports have also taken a hit due to this year's warm winter

Last week, while covering the climate summit in Paris, at one point I was struck with the absurdity: How can people negotiate the temperature of the planet?

Many were pleased with the stated 1.5-degree goal that came out of the Paris Agreement. But just imagine: If what we are seeing now is 1 degree, what will another half degree be like?

Negotiating the climate is not only absurd, it's astoundingly arrogant. Innumerable species and human lives hang in the balance. If the global community were to truly take responsibility, we'd stop burning fossil fuels this very moment.

Maybe someday I will relate to my grandchildren what snow was like.

Maybe my complaint is premature - maybe the weather will swing into the other direction, and we'll have massive blizzards. In summer perhaps. Maybe Greenland's ice sheet melt-off will plunge Europe into a new Ice Age, as some predict.

Until then, my sled remains parked in the cellar. And I miss Germany's white winters.

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