If climate change is reshaping Earth, what can world leaders do?

Fires raged. Rivers flooded. Ice melted. Droughts baked. Storms brewed. Temperatures soared. And people died.

Climate change in 2021 reshaped life on planet Earth through extreme weather.

World leaders are gathering in Scotland starting Sunday to try to accelerate the fight to curb climate change. So far, it’s not working, as the world keeps getting hotter and its weather more extreme, scientists and government officials say. They don’t have to point far back in time or far off for examples.

There have been deadly floods in Belgium, Germany, China and Tennessee. Fire blazed in parts of the U.S. West, Greece and even the Arctic. Heat waves proved deadly and unprecedented, pushing temperatures in the U.S. Northwest to 116 degrees Fahrenheit (47 degrees Celsius). Hurricane Ida paralyzed New York City with record-breaking, deadly rain.

In just the United States, there have been 18 weather or climate disasters this year with losses exceeding $1 billion, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Those 18 disasters caused 538 deaths and nearly $105 billion in damage. In the 1980s, the average year only saw three such disasters.

“These events would have been impossible without human-caused climate change,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.

In fact, world leaders have been meeting for 29 years to try to curb global warming, and in that time Earth has become a much hotter and deadlier planet.

Leaders have hammered out two agreements to curb climate change. In Kyoto in 1997, a protocol set carbon pollution cuts for developed countries but not poorer nations. That did not go into effect until 2005 because of ratification requirements. In 2015, the Paris agreement made every nation set its own emission goals.

In both cases, the United States, a top-polluting country, helped negotiate the deals but later pulled out of the process when a Republican president took office. The U.S. has since rejoined the Paris agreement.

The United States has had 265 weather disasters that caused at least $1 billion in damage — adjusted to 2021 dollars — since 1992, including 18 so far this year. Those disasters have caused 11,991 deaths and cost $1.8 trillion. From 1980 to 1992, the U.S. averaged three of those billion-dollar weather disasters a year. Since 1993, the country has averaged nine a year.

Wildfires in the United States have more than doubled in how much they have burned. From 1983 to 1992, wildfires consumed an average of 2.7 million acres a year. From 2011 to 2020, the average was up to 7.5 million acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

 “The unhealthy choices that are killing our planet are killing our people as well,” said Dr. Maria Neira, director of the World Heath Organization’s environment, climate change and health program.

More than one world leader says humanity’s future, even survival, hangs in the balance when international officials meet in Scotland to try to accelerate efforts to curb climate change. Temperatures, tempers and hyperbole have all ratcheted up ahead of the United Nations summit.

And the risk of failure looms large for all participants at the 26th U.N. Climate Change Conference, known as COP26.

Six years ago, nearly 200 countries agreed to individualized plans to fight global warming in the historic 2015 Paris climate agreement. Now leaders will converge in Glasgow for two weeks starting Sunday to take the next step dictated by that pact: Do more and do it faster.