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This year caps a decade that matches the record for the hottest on record, the U.N.'s World Meteorlogical Organization said Tuesday in a new report unveiled to coincide with the latest round of international climate talks.
"Our science is solid and it proves unequivocally that the world is warming and that this warming is due to human activities," WMO Deputy Secretary-General Jerry Lengoasa said in Durban, South Africa, where officials from almost 200 nations are gathered.
According to the provisional report, 2011 is set to become the tenth hottest year on record, and thirteen of the warmest years on record in terms of average global temperature have occurred within the past decade and a half.
The rise in yearly temperatures, the scientists say, contributes to extreme weather conditions like droughts, floods, heat waves, heavy precipitation and cyclones. Measures of Arctic sea ice this year show its area is the second lowest on record, and its volume is the lowest.
The WMO report was unveiled in hopes of further nudging world leaders to take action to address climate change during the U.N. climate conference in Durban, which runs through December 9. But Reuters explains why the talks may prove fruitless:
Prospects for a meaningful agreement appear bleak with the biggest emitters the United States and China unwilling to take on binding cuts until the other does first. Major players Japan, Canada and Russia are unwilling to extend commitments that expire next year and the European Union is looking at 2015 as a deadline for reaching a new global deal.
If no agreement is reached, many scientists fears that greenhouse gas emissions will reach a point of no return. Some believe that by the end of the century, glaciers will melt, sea levels will rise, and some island states will be submerged if the global average temperature increases between 3 and 6 degrees Celsius.