The rich world's policy on greenhouse gas now seems clear: millions will die.
Our governments have set the wrong targets to tackle climate change using outdated science, and they know it - George Monbiot (Tuesday May 1, 2007)
The nay-sayers and the doom-mongers ought to gather in one room and have a big food fight over their precise (and selfish) objections to the reports of global climate change. The outcome of that encounter won't change one quanta of the reality of the changing climate.
Note that phrase: "changing."
Changes in the Earth's climate are historic and nobody is arguing against that. The point is that humans are contributing in a major and ahistoric fashion, and it can and should be abated for any number of very sound economic, military, cultural and environmental reasons.
Yes, Earth's climate has gone through changes in the past, some quite abrupt, like the sudden global chilling that brought on the Ice Ages a little over ten thousand years ago. There is warming as well, which gave us the Age of the Dinosaurs; which, by the way, lasted 250 million years.
Each of these (only) two examples was caused by temperature changes of a piddling two degrees Celsius.
However, recent icepack core samples from the Antarctic (time span: approximately 1 million years) show a rapid and unprecedented climb in average temperature starting at the beginning of the Industrial Age.
I suggest that there should be major alarms at any rapid change in climate, which change is what ALL the models are showing us. We need to be aware of the extent so we can make preparations, whether your economy is based on tulips, are a housewife buying cabbages, or are a Marine colonel planning a beach assault ("Where did the beach go?"). Not to mention the massive human migration that will go along with these changes.
Sure, a handful of scientists disagree with the findings of the IPCC, but over 1,200 others signed their names to it. My bet is on the battalion of climatologists who think we should be a tad concerned.
Bear in mind that the average temperature increase is just that: an average.
Local weather patterns can be very chaotic, while micro-events can be quite severe. The extremes in a geographic range are what are of concern. Summers could see temperatures as high as 120 F in Northern Europe, and as low as -40 F in Northumbria, for example, and very swiftly. Are you looking forward to that? Sea levels will rise; are you willing to just sit around and wait for the Thames (in the UK) to broach your attic at high tide? Temperatures in sub-Sahara Africa will go through the roof on occasion. Are you going to house the millions of displaced Africans trying to get out of the oven that Africa will become?
By the way, the uranium that powers your nuclear power plants comes from Africa. The political, economic and military consequences of mining operations in Niger et al, in the face of climate heating are almost beyond contemplation. Chew that over for a while.
The UK's Ministry of Defense recently released report Strategic Trends 2007 states that climate change WILL severely impact many areas of concern to everyone. And, I might add, despite your hysterical objections.
The military are not usually given to arm-waving; contrary to popular opinion, the military are not unintelligent. Also, you might want to take a gander at NASA's own contribution to the subject, available here: The Next 50 Years, which projects alarming sea level changes, droughts & desertification, abnormal animal migrations, diseases such as malaria spreading northward, etc., if we continue our present rate of expelling CO2 emissions. NASA's report was written in 2001.
The consensus has been building for some time; and it is a consensus.
In closing, I am put in mind of the old biddy's adage, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
Update: The US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), has released a side-by-side comparison of the report as presented on Tuesday October 23, 2007 by Dr. Julie Gerberding, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The presentation has been heavily edited by the White House, trimming 6 of the original 12 pages in the report. Here's a screenshot of one pdf released on the 25th of October by the Committee.
Click on image for more readable version
Two highly informative pdf's (including an eye-opening redlined version) illustrating the White House's editing of the CDC report are available
More sad evidence that this administration doesn't give a crap about you.