Most of the enviornmental research (on both ends of the arguement) are best guesses and fairly flimsy at best. BTW: before anyone jumps on me, I am a geologist and have read more enviornmental research papers than I have ever cared to. And not the hyped up news articles that both sides of the arguement publish with selective and hyped up excerts. The actual papers in the various scientific journals.
There are two main problems here. One is perspective and the other is politics.
Perspective is the easiest one to explain. The Earth is a hugely complexe system that we scientists largely like to fool ourselves into thinking we've got it figured out. This is mainly due to the typical human nature of not liking to admit that you have spent a life time studing something and, in the end, you have only really scratched the surface. So, they like to handwave over the large parts that are unknown and only focus on what they do know. Also, the Earth operates on a time scale that humans really can not concieve of. It's one thing to talk about millions of years, that's the easy part. To actually understand what a million years IS is just simply something our human psyche is just not built to do. We have absolutely no real way to put that long of a time span into any sort of perspective.
So, we have a vast and complex system that is still mostly a mystery despite what most scientist will admit to (yes, I know this, I'm one of them LOL) running on a time frame that is completely outside the human experience by several orders of magnitude. Now throw in that we have only really been collecting reliable and comprohensive climatological data for, say, the last 200 years or so. And that 200 years is mostly just inclusive to Europe and North America. Worldwide, it is probably closer to the last 50 years or so. Which, with all of these factors combined, our understanding of enviornmental change is like the school nurse in a Tennessee Elementary school taking a look at, oh, 0.001 seconds of a patients vital signs (and incomplete readings of those vitals at that), comparing those vitals to an incomplete patient history written mostly in sandscrit and trying to determine the state of the patient and making a prognosis of how he will be in the next 0.05 seconds or so.
Now the politics. Add politics to anything and it immediately becomes a murky sewage pool that has been sitting in sun to long. Added to a subject that is already murky at best and, well, just look around and you can see what it has become.
Politicians love to have political ammo. And they will take any topic they feel can give them that ammo and use it irregardless of the end results or consequenses. After all, politicians are human. So, politicians have jumped on both sides of the enviornment issue and are exploiting it for all that it is worth while actually caring very little about bothersome things such as facts or the truth. And with the politicians come all the little remoras that feed behind the politicians, like the media, that will take such issues and run with it. Once the media gets a hold of it, it then mutates into an issue that can generate ratings and sales (read: bling bling). Unfortunately, most of the scientific papers and such are as exciting to read or listen to as listening to white noise in a dark room. So, they "spice it up" a bit. Take some excerpts here and there that can get people interested and leave out all the rest of the papers that would only serve to put the data into any sort of perspective. After all, the public doesn't want that; they want entertainment and excitement.
Which then creates a bunch of activists that are feeding off the media's hype and run to rally around their favorite politician that has taken their side of it armed with just enough information on the subject to be dangerous and loud about it and a feeling of knowing it all which builds in the auto-knee-jerk defense against any other information that might contridict their holy beliefs.
Then, the politicians get into power on the votes of their supporters that rallied around his stance on the enviornmental issue and he begins to work to ensure that come the next election, they are still good little voters. But it also means that they have to keep the issue alive and hyped to keep the voters rallied.
And here, finally, is where science and the scientists step in. Most scientific funding is given out by the government. Agencies and Senate Sub-Committees and the like that all have their agenda. And woe to the person that does not work for the agenda. For if you seem to rock the agenda boat, you may not be seeing your grants renewed next fall Doctor. And, while the scientists may be well meaning, he also knows that if his funding is cut, he'll be out selling screw drivers at the local Home Depot next month. So, you are now getting all of this highly influenced and biased research done by both sides to feed the machine that has as much real scientific merit as a 3rd grade science report on tadpoles.
And, no, I'm not cynical at all ;)
As for me, what is my stance? All I know is that the Earth is one tough mama. Tougher than most humans will give her credit for being and that she will be here LONG, LONG, LONG after the last human takes a dump in a stream. And that life is also tougher than we give it credit for. I honestly don't think that humans have the ability to wipe out all life from this planet right now if we wanted to. Sure, we can take a lot of critters with us and make it a spares place for a long time, but something will survive. Something always does. And while it may take those few survivors several hundred million years to spread back out and fill out the evolutionary tree again; for the Earth, that's just a single heart beat.
And finally, the one thing that we all have to accept is that the Earth is never a static system. The Earth as system of constant, never ceasing, relentless flux. Mountains are worn down to plains, plains become seas, volcanoes spew various gasses into the atmosphere, sulfur from natural shale deposits drain into lakes and raise the acidity, magnetic fields change and species are born and die off quite often. It doesn't take a human to change the planet by any means. Far to much I see the enviornmental activists taking stands against natural events and cycles thinking that it is not natural and trying to stop it! LOL But at the same time, for our own sakes, it wouldn't hurt to look around and see how we can do things better and cleaner.
**Kommisar awards himself the Thread Hijacker of the Year Award***
NICE POST!! Wow. That was, like, an essay. Mind if I borrow that for Sociology? : D