Experts are growing ever more vocal in urging sharp cutbacks in emissions, to protect the climate that has nurtured modern civilization.
But not everyone is willing to act.
The U.S. remains the only major industrialized nation not to have legislated caps on carbon emissions, after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid last week withdrew climate legislation in the face of resistance from Republicans and some Democrats.
The U.S. inaction, dating back to the 1990s, is a key reason global talks have bogged down for a pact to succeed the expiring Kyoto Protocol. That is the relatively weak accord on emissions cuts adhered to by all other industrialized states.
Governments around the world, especially in poorer nations that will be hard-hit, are scrambling to find ways and money to adapt to shifts in climate and rising seas.
The meetings of climatologists in the coming weeks in Paris, Britain and Colorado will be one step toward adaptation, seeking ways to identify trends in extreme events and better means of forecasting them.
A U.N. specialist in natural disasters says much more needs to be done.
Salvano Briceno of the U.N.’s International Strategy for Disaster Reduction pointed to aggravating factors in the latest climate catastrophes: China’s failure to stem deforestation, contributing to its deadly mudslides; Russia’s poor forest management, feeding fires; and the settling of poor Pakistanis on flood plains and dry riverbeds in the densely populated country, squatters’ turf that suddenly turned into torrents.
“The IPCC has already identified the influence of climate change in these disasters. That’s clear,” Briceno said. “But the main trend we need to look at is increasing vulnerability, the fact we have more people living in the wrong places, doing the wrong things.”
AP Correspondents Michael J. Crumb in Des Moines, Iowa, and Christopher Bodeen in Beijing contributed to this report.