WITH forecasts of record-breaking high temperatures across the UK in the coming days, those who expected to get through the summer without ditching their electric blankets have been confounded.

That’s the good news. As a run of scorching days and stickily warm nights takes hold, you might wonder, are climate deniers beginning to doubt their certainties?

It seems unlikely. On its own, this rare burst of heat signals nothing more than the late onset of British summertime, of the sort most of us think we remember from our childhoods. Back in the day, or so we delude ourselves, the sun always shone while school was out, and ice-creams and a dip in the sea were the only way to keep cool.

How fickle memory is. Regardless of the present conditions, people seem conveniently to have forgotten that the planet is perilously close to irreversible warming.

A few months ago, as COP26 convened in Glasgow, there was much grave nodding of heads about the need for a concerted response to the unignorable climate crisis. International agreements were made, targets set, and there appeared to be a collective sense of urgency.

Only a short while before the Glasgow conference, we were all in the grip of lockdown. In those far-distant days – thinking of them is like looking down the wrong end of a telescope – we were each of us unavoidably grounded. We stayed at home.

A treat was a daily walk around the block. The sky was clear of planes, and Delhi, previously notorious for its dire air quality, suddenly fell into the “good” range, because of the absence of traffic.

During those dreadful times, many of us reflected on the way we had been living. Those with gardens took solace in their outdoor space, and learned – or promised – to become more environmentally friendly in what and how they cultivated their patch. The sight of two cars in the drive, or on the tarmacked front garden, made some rethink the need for eight wheels and wonder which power tool would most swiftly transform a barren forecourt to flowers and grass.

Bike-use rocketed, as did putting one foot in front of another. The benefits of holidaying within this sceptr’d isle, despite the vagaries of the elements, were hymned, and the retro delights of caravans, campervans and camping were embraced by everyone who had ever read The Wind in the Willows.

We decluttered, and vowed to make do with less, and mend what we could. We reconnected with old friends, and discovered that business meetings could take place as easily from our kitchen tables. All this and much more fundamentally shifted how we lived. Briefly we were more aware of and sensitive to the world around us, and our role in making it tick.

Already, however, all this feels like history. You don’t need to see footage of the queues at airport terminals, or lanes of bumper-to-bumper congestion on motorways to recognise that, as if awakening from a long sleep, we have effortlessly resumed our pre-pandemic habits. The way we’re behaving, you’d be forgiven for thinking that those painful years, and their lessons, had never been.

For a sign of how quickly we have ditched our good intentions for the planet look no further than this week’s climate change briefing at Westminster.

Given by Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific advisor, it used some of data that last year led to the scales falling from Boris Johnson’s eyes. These facts, Johnson said, represented a “road to Damascus” moment: “I got them [government scientists] to run through it all and, if you look at the almost vertical kink upward in the temperature graph, the anthropogenic climate change, it’s very hard to dispute. That was a very important moment for me.”

This week’s update on the gravity of the situation was woefully attended, with just 70 MPs turning up. That it happened at all is thanks to the courage and determination of a remarkable climate activist, Angus Rose.

In April, he went on a 37-day hunger strike outside the Houses of Parliament. He ended his protest only when he was promised this briefing would take place and all the relevant climate crisis information be laid before law makers.

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is killing sleep for masochists who keep it by the bedside: “We are at a crossroads,” it says. “The decisions we make now can secure a liveable future. We have the tools and knowhow required to limit warming.”

Nevertheless, it makes it clear that in the coming years we will face an increasing number and intensity of heat waves, droughts, floods, storms and wildfires. The resulting shortages of food and water will endanger or kill millions of us.

Amid the slew of alarming information this report contains is the fact that around half of the world’s population already suffers severe water shortages at some point each year. Even if we manage to mitigate our behaviour and avoid breaching a catastrophic level of emissions, the water crisis is predicted to get worse. It is a terrifying prospect.

But despite the background drum-beat of danger, when the chance comes to return to our old ways, how quickly we forget resolutions and good intentions.

Millions of us are planning to jet off this summer on long-haul holidays, just like we always used to. Millions more are using the car as wantonly as before. You’d think the astronomical cost of petrol would have curtailed this but, according to the latest figures, overall traffic last week was at 101.3% of pre-pandemic levels.

Of course we aren’t going to stop using cars overnight, or boycott all air travel. Asking the impossible is not just unattainable but counterproductive, causing resentment, denial and recalcitrance.

Yet, although there’s no need to abandon all hope of ever going further than Troon, we should each made a noticeable reduction in our footprint. And for those who argue that one person’s noticeable might be another’s negligible, we all must start somewhere.

Tragically, the pandemic has shown us that the unimaginable and the apocalyptic can happen. For a fleeting moment it seemed that lockdown represented a return to greater sanity and altruism, to an understanding of the things that matter most. With that hope fading, you have to ask, what will it take now to ground us?