Recently, it appears that a few tabloid articles from tabloid news agencies (Daily Mail (UK) was the first I believe to run it), have claimed to prove that climate change is a hoax.
I do not personally 100% agree with the articles of late that claim to have proven climate change to be a scam..but...there's some factors of it that I do agree with. I hate the climate change apocalyptic prognosticators as much as anyone, I think Al Gore is a sheister/buffoon, and I do not believe we will see immediate disastrous effects out of our backyard windows in the next few years.
Yet, that is not to say that because the apocalyptic prognostication faction has been slow to show us any awesome apocalypses, we can officially demote climate science to junk science.
The following are the reasons I believe climate change is occurring and why it can be very dangerous.
1. Humans evolved with their environments in a similar fashion throughout the entire planet. Humans are far and foremost a coastal sea-faring species. The percentage of humans still living in coastal regions vary from source to source yet a general estimate of 40-50% seems like the mean figure.
2. A 2006 study carried out by Church and White found that global sea levels are rising. They have concluded that sea levels have risen at a steady rate and will keep rising. Any proceeding study into sea levels supported the results of this study.
So...if half of the humans on earth live on the coast and global sea levels are rising, could all these cities eventually be submerged? The answer is yes but it will not be tomorrow or next month. This is a gradual process. The cities can be submerged in 2100, 2300, 2500, 3100...we don't know. The possibility of this coastal submerging occurring is definite yet due to the time frame, me and you won't have to worry about it. Your great great grandchildren? Yes, probably.
3. Global sea/ocean temperatures are going up at an incredible rate. As water heats it expands (through convection) causing the density of the liquid to drop but the mass to increase. This only explains a portion of why water levels are rising. The other factor is that glaciers, ice shelves, and other blocks of solid liquid are also losing density and increasing in overall mass (melting).
The ant-arctic ice is staying stagnant and even growing (to the glee of climate change opponents) yet we have lost millions of square kilometers of ice in the opposite pole. Millions of square kilometers of ice in the north pole is becoming liquid.
That's how they derive their statistics.
4. Why are global waters getting hotter? Why are they melting ice? What is causing this? Some speculate that it is only natural. Others speculate that a dense covering of gas is trapping heat within the planet, the oceans then absorb this heat and convect. The proof they cite is that they have measured the acidity of the water and it is increasing at a gradual rate as well.
This is the theory which gets everyone excited and worried because it is the one that links human-made pollution to the rising temperature of global waters.
2 Things to Remember...
Firstly, Tabloids are not very educational. Sadly, all news outlets are of the tabloid variety because it is the only profitable method to sell news. The definition of "tabloid" is as follows (as per wikipedia):
"Tabloid journalism tends to emphasize topics such as sensational crime stories, astrology, gossip columns about the personal lives of celebrities and sports stars, and junk food news. Such journalism is commonly associated with tabloid sized newspapers like the National Enquirer, Globe, [Fox], or the The Sun and the former News of the World."
This is not the place to get your understanding of the world and how it operates. This style of journalism is designed to run stories that make readers mad/happy/sad (i.e. generate some sort of immediate emotional response) it is not designed to be educational. The Daily Mail (UK) column this story initially surfaced from is a tabloid...nothing more and nothing less.
If you would like to verse yourself in scientific journals and have a broader opinion on the matters at hand then by all means do so. Getting your info from scientific journals is going to give you far more credible information than a tabloid source.
Secondly, scientists understand the sands of human time in the scope of the god damned universe. Here to try and explain it is my home-slice, the deceased but still awesome Carl Sagan, and he's rappin' 'bout how short human history has been:
He's trying to explain it with calendar-esque day/hour/minute/second metrics that most of us are used to judging time in. We've only been here but for a moment, we really have. To the cosmos billions of years is nothing. Things take a long time, forces such as the erosion of rocks, the forming of continents, or the evolution of species are forces that alter the planet very GRADUALLY. You have to understand that it's not a bang-bang one-two punch. It takes a long time.
Yes, the average human only lives for about 75 years but your life is just one moment in the grand scheme of human existence. Theoretically, we can carry on the human game we're playing for billions of years right to the end (when the sun peters out), we can carry on the human game for a coupla hundred more years (by killing ourselves)...or we could even possibly harness technology, save ourselves, and fly out to settle other space rocks heated by other damned suns and play the human game infinitely.
The sensational tabloids will report the matter on either polarized perspective of climate change as if it will or will not kill us right now. People who are interested in science don't tend to think of the right now all the time, they know gradual processes take immense amounts of time.
Nuclear war will kill us all right-here-right-now and it is the only immediate apocalyptic event...but the destruction of our life-support system on earth through natural forces and/or man made pollution is a gradual process that may take thousands or hundreds of years.
Yes, climate change is occurring. No, it is not a hoax (my opinion anyway). Should we worry about it? Not in the immediate future.
In the case that you are a future-thinking dude/chick and wonder what the lives your great great great ancestors will be like....then yeah, you should worry.
Note (added Sept. 25/2013): I mentioned nuclear war as being the only event that will instantaneously assure our mutual destruction but I was not correct with that statement. There are many ways we can go extinct from natural causes. A good read on the subject of how we may all die is the 5th section of Neil DeGrasse Tyson's excellent book..."Death by Black Hole and other cosmic quandaries."