I actually got a little more convinced about global warming by reading an anti-global warming website. It was run by a scientist but there was nonetheless this strain of "let's bat everything down the other side says" that was resulting not only in questioning people's motives, but their character and calling up conspiracy theories that were starting to grasp for black helicopters and tinfoil hats. Just to qualify that, I think there were a lot of good comments but toward the end there things were getting weird.
I think it's undebatable that temperatures have risen over the last 30 years. I think one thing that is still open for debate is the relative contribution of natural versus manmade causes, where man's contribution is somewhere north of zero and south of 100 (is that wide enough latitude?
). One of the problems then arises- until we know the contribution of human-based sources, it becomes difficult to build a good projection model. And until we have a good projection model, it's hard to assess what the coming century is going to bring in terms of climate change. Add to that: there are almost no regional models of what climate change will mean. Think about this: if the average didn't change at all, but every place that was warm saw an increase in 10 degrees of temperature and an elimination of preciptation, while every cool place saw a decrease of 10 degrees and a doubling of precipitation, would we be better off than having a uniform, one degree global change in temperature?
And therewith lies the final problem: what are the costs and benefits of continuing manmade forcings on the climate? That's where the discussion de facto becomes political, no matter how sound the science is, because we're arguing economics and morals at that point. It's the most contentious and least ageed-upon point of discussion, and I think a lot of the accusations about the science stem from people who worry about the political, economic, and moral ramifications of the evidence. So they shoot the messengers- the scientists. I think this holds true on both sides of the debate- I noticed that both sides are impatient to the point of rudeness with people who want to revisit the data or models... unless the revisiting results in their favor.
My own position is that we need (as a society and as a species) to be as adaptible as possible to whatever gets thrown at us climatologically. Even if man was having no impact whatsoever on the climate, the temperatures still might change drastically over the next 100 years... so then what? Right now they're already saying that natural factors will cause the Colorado River to be significantly lower for then next several decades... how does arguing about how much additional impact that man is having on that natural process help out the rapidly growing population in the Desert Southwest?
Even if we weren't impacting the climate, it would still benefit us to ask how we can move to an economy based on renewable resources, and even if we are impacting the climate, we still have to ask whether we're going to be better or worse off because of it.
By all means, keep working on the models to refine them and improve the data, that is one of the imperatives of science. But I think we're losing sight of the bigger picture: the prospect of climate change is making us aware of our vulnerabilities to natural conditions. What are some steps we can take to help make people- particularly people already at the margins- less vulnerable to long-term changes in nature? Reducing our impact on the climate might be one of those steps, but it's certainly not the only step that we need to consider.