Scientists agree that increases in global average temperature are associated with increases in greenhouse gases that act like a blanket holding in more of the sun's heat. About half of that heat is absorbed by the earth's surface. Burning fossil fuels and deforestation increase greenhouse gases. Increased temperature will first manifest in extreme weather events.
27,000 scientists from all over the world were recently polled; 98% responded that our recent (and future) climate changes are man-made. We have hit 400ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere for the first time in 3 million years. (By the way, 350ppm is considered the highest CO2 concentration compatible with life on earth as we know it.) When we blast through a 1degree of temperature rise worldwide toward 2 degrees please act accordingly. When droughts are more frequent, flooding more intense, tornadoes, hurricanes, and forest fires more severe we assume those are due to the increase in captured heat described above. When polar ice caps melt and leave summer poles fully exposed with no ice coverage (in as soon as 2 years) climate scientists tell us extreme will become very extreme leading to melting of arctic tundra and methane gas release which is a whole new level of climate change.
If the scientists are to be listened to there really is only one “issue” that you or any of us should be discussing and that is the real future we'll be leaving our children. We'll be leaving plenty of debt, broken promises, and groundless hope to be sure. I think they will forgive us those transgressions. What they may not appreciate is leaving depleted aquifers, a climate that may be so severe that whole parts of habitable land will become uninhabitable, food shortages, and whatever else our scientists are telling us to look for like so many failed “experiments.”
By now we all know someone in Calgary, New York, New Orleans, or Oklahoma who has been through predictable extreme climate events. No place is safe, no person is immune to the climate. Almost every city has an official Climate Action Plan with good advice on how to make meaningful simple changes in lifestyle to help turn the tides of climate change. President Obama's plan is a step in the right direction, although some would argue a bit little and a bit late, but it's something.
Dr. Linda Rudolph of Center for Public Health reminds us that a shift toward active transportation instead of driving would reduce heart disease by 14%, and reduce cancers, osteoporosis, obesity, and depression. Your personal climate action plan may include lifestyle changes, transportation adjustments, and community involvement in one of the many climate-related efforts available (mine is 350sacramento.org). Whatever you choose it's too late to be early but not too late to involved.