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MANILA, Philippines—The world is finally coming to terms with an inconvenient truth.

Across the globe, leaders are waking up to the fact that global warming is a real threat. And its impact is palpable, often immediate—disasters and human suffering carried live on television or the Internet almost as they occur.

Last month, as the United States prepared for Christmas, its East Coast was buried under the avalanche of gale-force blizzards. This record snowfall was a reprise of a wintry assault that devastated major cities in the mid-Atlantic region in February last year.

In July last year, an intense heat wave spread from Maine to Pennsylvania. By the following month, the continuing drought shrank Lake Mead, America’s largest reservoir in Nevada and Arizona, by a significant margin.

Read more: Climate change: 2011 bodes more weather anomalies

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Forest FireA Russian man watches a forest fire burn in Beloomut, in summer 2010. Experts have linked the likelihood of such fires with global warming. Photograph: Andrey Smirnov/AFP/Getty Images

So far, global warming has been limited to a rise of around 0.75C since the end of the 19th century. This sounds like a small change, but the scientific evidence suggests it is already leading to a range of impacts around the world. As we'll explore in future questions, these impacts includes changes to sea level, rainfall patterns, ecosystems and some kinds of extreme weather.

Read more: Does a small temperature rise actually matter?

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Climate Agenda1The Climate Change Agenda After Cancún: Part I

By Myles Estey

This is a four-part series. Part I examines the follow-up agreement to the Kyoto Protocol. Part II examines the REDD+ agreement. Part III examines financial assistance. And Part IV examines technology transfers and adaptation.

CANCÚN, Mexico -- Observers and participants at December's climate change summit in Cancún, Mexico, routinely identified a follow-up agreement to the Kyoto Protocol as one area where progress was essential. The odds of reaching one were not promising. With just one year left on the Kyoto treaty, and Japan firm in its stance that it will not permit an extension beyond the 2012 expiration, there was not a lot of room for maneuver to get an agreement on the table at Cancún. 

Read more: The Climate Change Agenda After Cancún

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