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In the more than two decades since world leaders first got together to try to solve global warming, life on Earth has changed, not just the climate. It's gotten hotter, more polluted with heat-trapping gases, more crowded and just downright wilder. The numbers are stark. Carbon dioxide emissions: up 60 percent. Global temperature: up six-tenths of a degree. Population: up 1.7 billion people. Sea level: up 3 inches. U.S. extreme weather: up 30 percent. Ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica: down 4.9 trillion tons of ice. "Simply put, we are rapidly remaking the planet and beginning to suffer the consequences," says Michael Oppenheimer, professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University. Diplomats from more than 190 nations opened talks Monday at a United Nations global warming conference in Lima, Peru, to pave the way for an international treaty they hope to forge next year.
Our changing world by the numbers:
- Since 1992, there have been more than 6,600 major climate, weather and water disasters worldwide, causing more than $1.6 trillion in damage and killing more than 600,000 people, according to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters in Belgium
- It's almost a sure thing that 2014 will go down as the hottest year in 135 years of record keeping, meteorologists at NOAA's National Climatic Data Center say. If so, this will be the sixth time since 1992 that the world set or tied a new annual record for the warmest year.
- The world's oceans have risen by about 3 inches since 1992 and gotten a tad more acidic — by about half a percent — thanks to chemical reactions caused by the absorption of carbon dioxide, scientists at NOAA and the University of Colorado say.
- The world's population in 1992 was 5.46 billion. Today, it's nearly a third higher, at 7.18 billion. That means more carbon pollution and more people who could be vulnerable to global warming.
- China has tripled its emissions from 3 billion tons to 11 billion tons a year. The emissions from the U.S. have gone up more slowly, about 6 percent, from 5.4 billion tons to 5.8 billion tons.
--- Associated Press