Before we can effectively address and debate the consequences it might be wise to have a better understanding of the exact problem.
I almost agree. What I don't agree with is "exact". We don't have to distinguish between human activity causing 50 % of the problem and our activity causing 35 or 65 %. Anywhere in that range makes us significant in my view. Others might say anywhere from 20 % upwards but I'm not going to fuss about the exact number.
I do agree we need to understand our contribution to the climate change that is underway as we type here.
So do we have any idea? As I understand the physics we know that adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere will increase the over all temperature of the earth. We can even produces some pretty sound calculations as to the amount. We also have a pretty good idea of how much our activities have added.
We are told by the IPCC that putting these together says that we are, indeed, a significant factor in the change of the earth's climate. There is enough information to know that we should start to take action (as much of the world is doing although probably too slowly).
What is much more difficult to determine is how serious the consequences will be. The speed with which we take action and the magnitude of the resources we commit should be based on the seriousness of the consequences. Which I think is implied by your comment.
So are the very conservative estimates of the IPCC are for a global catastrophe costing many trillions. That's my guess based on a meter or so rise in sea level in the next 85 years.
But there are less conservative values you could plug into the cost-risk equation too.
If CO2 levels keep climbing without mitigation then we know that we'll have a 200 foot rise in sea level. We just don't know how fast. We'd better figure that out really, really soon. If we don't want to commit too many resources to mitigation yet then we sure has hell should be committing lots to determining what the risks are.
My personal totally wild and crazy guess is that we are facing much larger change in a much shorter time than the consensus IPCC estimates give right now.
My brother lives about 2 meters above sea level. Lovely spot it is. A one meter rise would bring storm tides to his doorstep. I'm speculating that in about 10 to 15 years he will have to be out of there. There are tipping points hidden out there and they will bite us I'm afraid. Hopefully I am wrong as I so often am.
And the current atmosphere, in which global warming proponents literally demonize anyone who suggests that, is both unhealthy and unscientific.
I haven't seen anyone saying that be demonized but I'm sure it happens. Those who are being 'demonized' are those who are denying there is a problem and don't want to spend anything to determine the risks we face even without talking about actually doing anything.
We have reached the point where we have enough information to tell us to take some freakin' action! There might still be room to argue about how much and how fast but the door is swinging shut fast.
ABE Actually those who are being demonized and should be strung up are those who are trading in deliberate misinformation and lies.
If we keep using fossil fuels at current rates we are going to run out.
We will not run out (at least not in time frames that are relevant). There are already countries (South Africa being one ) where a large part of the car fuel is produced from coal for example. There are immense reserves of that fossil fuel.
What will and is happening is that fuel will get more and more expensive. This is a very good thing but it isn't happening fast enough to help a lot with the climate change problem.
What this tells us is that our ability to make decisions as a group is so hopelessly inadequate to the task at hand that we will carry right on until half of us drown and the other half starve.
It gets wackier: People surveyed in a hot room are more likely to say global warming is real, compared with folks in a cold room. Our rational minds may know the temperature is being controlled by a thermostat, but the logic somehow breaks down before we answer the survey questions.