WASHINGTON — Since the 1997 international accord in Kyoto, Japan, to fight global warming, climate change has worsened and accelerated — beyond some of the grimmest of warnings made 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 Denmark:
• 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 that 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 degrees higher than the dozen years before 1997.
Even the gloomiest climate models in the 1990s didn't forecast results quite this bad so fast.
"The latest science is telling us we are in more trouble than we thought," said Janos Pasztor, climate adviser to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Here's why: Since an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas pollution was signed, carbon dioxide in the air has increased 6.5 percent. Officials from across the world will convene in Copenhagen next month to seek a followup pact, one that President Barack Obama says "has immediate operational effect … an important step forward in the effort to rally the world around a solution."