WASHINGTON — Since the 1997 international accord to fight global warming, climate change has worsened and accelerated — beyond some of the grimmest of warnings made back then.
As the world has talked for a dozen years about what to do next, new ship passages opened through the once frozen summer sea ice of the Arctic. In Greenland and Antarctica, ice sheets have lost trillions of tons of ice. Mountain glaciers in Europe, South America, Asia and Africa are shrinking faster than before.
And it’s not just the frozen parts of the world that have felt the heat in the dozen years leading up to next month’s climate summit in Copenhagen:
— The world’s oceans have risen by about an inch and a half.
—Droughts and wildfires have turned more severe worldwide, from the U.S. West to Australia to the Sahel desert of North Africa.
—Species now in trouble because of changing climate include, not just the lumbering polar bear which has become a symbol of global warming, but also fragile butterflies, colorful frogs and entire stands of North American pine forests.
—Temperatures over the past 12 years are 0.4 of a degree warmer than the dozen years leading up to 1997.