The National:

THERE is a huge difference between predictions and raw reality.

Between scientists warning of glaciers melting and a plaque unveiled in Greenland in memory of a massive glacier which is no more.

Between newscasters intoning that flooding of this nature is a “once in 100 years” event, and the same houses finding themselves under water a year or two later.

Between naturalists publicly fearful of the impact on global wonders like coral reefs and the latter suffering a lingering, colour-draining death.

And these contrasts become ever more vivid when the ravages of man-made climate change become excruciatingly obvious to the countries whose post-industrial love affair with fossil fuels has contributed most to the devastation flagged up in the truly terrifying report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

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Their “code red for humanity” tells us that much of the damage unfolding can no longer be held at bay, even if the unlikely miracle occurs and the world’s governments commit to a much earlier target for carbon neutrality than is currently on the table.

“We can expect a significant jump in extreme weather over the next 20 or 30 years,” said Piers Forster, a climate scientist at the University of Leeds and one of hundreds of international experts who helped write the report. “Things are unfortunately likely to get worse than they are today.”

Forster now represents an international community of scientists uniformly agreed that we are and have been the architects of our current and accelerating misfortunes. Based in almost 200 countries, they studied some 14,000 peer-reviewed papers all pointing the finger of blame at countries whose governments have done little more than offer pious hopes of future better behaviour.

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As one of his colleagues observed: “For far too long, policymakers have placed their short-term political interests and the greed of corporations ahead of the needs of their constituents."

Although the US is back on track with the Paris Accord after the dangerous denial of the Trump years, America, alongside Europe and China, are still decades away from phasing out coal and gas-fired options. The 10 biggest emitters of greenhouse gases are China, the United States, the European Union, India, Russia, Japan, Brazil, Indonesia, Iran and Canada.

Some of these, like Brazil, are actively exacerbating the crisis by obliterating essential rain forests. Some, like India, are wanting the historical offenders to put serious money on the table before the more recently developing economies take serious action.

That’s a plea echoed by African nations, many now in debt to China for their infrastructure projects, and countries like Bangladesh and other low-lying nations most at risk from coastal flooding as the ocean levels inexorably rise.

Whether the leaders assembling in Glasgow for COP26 in November can bite some very unpalatable bullets may depend ultimately on the pressures which come from their own electorates.

READ MORE: Matheson says Cop26 could be 'one of our last chances'

From voters in America whose homes have gone up in forest fire flames. From electors in Germany who watched their houses and cars disappear under unparalleled flood waters.

These are people who know at first hand that climate change is no hoax; they have paid a very heavy price for the skewed priorities of their legislators.

If this year’s climate conference produces no more than hot air, then the Earth in its present form will be in the last century of its life.

Little wonder it’s the world’s teenagers who have found some of the loudest voices in raising the alarm. They will inherit our earth – and they’d like it free of fire, flood, and famine.