There's been a lot of talk recently in blogs and in the media about the weird weather we're having at the moment. But, whatever the immediate, complex reasons for this unpredictable pattern of meteorological extremes, one thing is blindingly clear: the world is warming up. And it's warming up faster than we think.
John Vidal, the Guardian's environmental editor, travelled last month with Oxfam through the Andean mountains of Peru and Ecuador. He found retreating glaciers, shrinking rivers, expanding deserts and rampaging diseases. And, as usual, it's the poor who suffer first and worst.
He writes: Climate change has fallen off the political agenda in rich countries since the shambles of the Copenhagen summit last year, and the headlines have been dominated by global recession. But while politicians fail to act, the phenomenon continues unabated. In the past week, the three major institutes that calculate global warming have said 2010 will at least tie for the hottest year yet recorded, and it is widely expected that global carbon dioxide emissions will hit record levels.
This year summer temperatures in Russia and central Asia were 7.8 degrees C above average for a whole month, the Pakistan floods affected more than 20 million people, and temperature records were set in 17 countries from Finland to Iraq, Burma and Columbia. Again, there was a near-record melting of Arctic sea ice and the UN has recorded more than 700 extreme-weather related disasters.
Yet most of the world has never heard the phrase 'climate change' and does not understand the science behind man-induced climate change. Hundreds of millions of people are having to adapt without help to the major changes which they can see are taking place, and for which they are not responsible.
We're now in the middle of the latest round of climate change talks in Cancún, Mexico. 193 governments are taking part. Half-way through - and only 170 words out of a 1300 word key text remain undisputed. Will there be more progress than in Copenhagen last year? Don't hold your breath.