This is my take on global warming/climate change.
First, I think this if one issue in particular where the moderates need to take back the discussion from the extremists. On one side we have the Al Gore types, running around like chicken little, screaming that the sky is falling. On the other side we have the global warming deniers, unwilling to accept the possibility that taking millions of tons of carbon, oxidizing it into CO2, and releasing it into the atmosphere might cause some changes to the environment. Add to these the “young earth Christians” (see footnote if this is you), who think the world was created in the current state. And then top it off with the media, who are in business make money, and know they can get more readers/viewers with headlines like “GLOBAL WARMINGS COMING. OMG WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!” than they can with “WE CAN KEEPING DOING WHAT WE’RE DOING FOREVER AND NOTHING BAD WILL HAPPEN”. With all these people making noise it’s no wonder that no real discussion can take place. We need all of them to shut up for a while so that those of us who can think reasonable and rationally, and who can take an unbiased look at the facts and data, can work out the best plan going forward from here.
So lets look at the facts:
The earth’s climate has been changing since it came into existence, and will continue to do so until it ceases to exist.
During the past century we have removed many millions (billions? trillions? more?) tons of hydrocarbons from the ground, oxidized them, and released the resulting CO2 into the atmosphere.
There are, and always have been, and always will be, natural sources of CO2.
During the past century the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased.
During the past century there has been a reduction in the size of glaciers in many parts of the world.
During the past century there has been an increase in average temperature in many places in the world.
I’m sure I’m leaving out many facts, feel free to add to this list.
My opinions and conclusions based on these facts:
While it has not been proven that there is a direct cause and effect link between the release of CO2 from human activity and global climate changes, I think that there is enough evidence to suggest that this is a possibility. Because of this I think it would be wise to do what we can to limit the release of CO2.
While no one knows for sure what the long term effect of these changes are, given the scale of the global climate I think it is reasonable to assume that these changes may be slow in coming, long lasting, and difficult to reverse. Because of this I think it would be wise to take actions now rather than waiting until the effects on global climate are proven.
Having been to a 3rd world country I realize that it is our affluence that affords us the ability to care about the environment. You have to do what you have to do to survive today before you can worry about tomorrow. If we destroy our economy to try to save the environment in the long run we will destroy both.