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The last edition of Vital Climate Graphics, published in 2000, suggested that the world may have been witnessing the early signs of global climate change. Since then, the global scientific community has collected and analysed more data and refi ned its computer-based models. The newest evidence confi rms that the planet is indeed warming and that the growing emissions of greenhouse gases are the likely cause. We often associate climate change with extreme events, such as the destructive hurricanes or heat waves that seem to be reported in the media so frequently. The consequences, however, will also include gradual and less dramatic changes in environmental conditions. Over the longer term, such changes could produce more coastal erosion, droughts and coral bleaching and the spread of mosquito-borne diseases to new regions. The recently released Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, the most detailed assessment to date of changes in the polar climate, indicates that the Arctic is warming at twice the global average. Already we are witnessing the widespread melting of glaciers, the thinning of sea ice and rising permafrost temperatures.

As we try to formulate our response to climate change, as concerned citizens, policy makers or business leaders we need accessible and easily understood information. This Vital Climate Graphics package seeks to translate the incredibly complex subject of climate change into material that can be useful to a broad range of readers.

This edition of Vital Climate Graphics is based on the Third Assessment Report, which was published by the WMO/UNEP Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2001.

Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director United Nations Environment Programme

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