Sixty-five million years ago, the Earth went through a deep cycle of climate change, extinction and adjustment. The cause (somewhat disputed) was an asteroid impact that blocked sunlight on the Earth.
It now appears that humans are causing the same kind of "climate change," but is it inevitable? On the one hand, we are causing it with our own actions, which implies that we could stop causing it if we wanted to. On the other hand, we appear to have no hope of coordinating a stop to the activities that are causing it. That's mostly because everyone is waiting for everyone else to move first, to blink and reduce their own consumption so that others may follow.*
One reason that countries hesitate to make such a first mover action is that other countries may not move in the same direction, choosing instead to increase their own output. Another reason is that the first mover will face higher costs of adjustment; those who move later will be able to learn from the first mover's mistakes when/if they move. Thus, we can see how the "first-mover disadvantage" has got everyone locked in paralysis.
What we need is a good alien invasion (as in the movies) -- something that will unite all earthlings against a common cause and allow us drop all the strategic hesitation in our haste to work together to save humanity. What if there are no aliens (or no aliens interested in our increasingly-damaged earth)? Well, then, perhaps we need to invent them. Some people may claim that "global warming" is itself an invented bogeyman designed to move us to action. If so, it's a pretty poor invention, since some people still dispute its existence and others think that its effects will be mild to non-existent.
Notice how aliens JUST APPEAR and then do harm IMMEDIATELY. If global warming dropped down (into Central Park, Tienanmen Square, etc.) and started conducting random anal probes of people, you could be sure that Will Smith would be there in no time, saving the earth. And we'd back him up, pitchforks in hand!
Bottom Line: We need an international rallying point if we -- as humans -- are going to reduce and adapt to global warming. The IPCC is trying to create such a rallying point, but their reports are hardly emotional. Does anyone have any better ideas/examples?
The House voted for the Waxman-Markey bill on Friday. It calls for 17 percent reductions of GHG (against 2005 levels) by 2020 and 83 percent reductions by 2050. The agricultural lobby weakened the bill in several ways, and the Senate will weaken it by more. The Economist says that the bill may be worse than nothing at all if other countries see it as a non-commitment. OTOH, Billy Pizer (who represented the US Treasury on the negotiations) told me after his plenary talk yesterday that the bill was a step in the right direction and "wildly successful" in some ways. I'm not sure if this bill will be interpreted as a strike against the aliens or a strategic attempt to look busy while doing nothing.