Many people agree global warming is a threat, and that action must be taken to avoid our children or grandchildren facing an uncertain future. But scientists now say the problem could be more immediate -- and we could still be around to feel its effects.
A new report by US campaigning group Environmental Defense has warned that the world could experience increasing numbers of highly destructive storms, like Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans last year.
While global sea levels are rising gradually, this is a long-term process taking decades.
What scientists believe is a more imminent dangers is flooding caused by storm surges, the onrush of water caused by high winds and low atmospheric pressure in a severe storm such as a hurricane.
The 2005 hurricane season was "the worst ever," Environmental Defense noted, with 15 separate hurricanes and the most intense hurricane ever recorded -- Wilma, which struck Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula -- as well as Katrina. Combined damage cost an estimated $100 billion.
"Did global warming play a role? Recent research indicates that the answer is 'Yes'," the group said.
The reason for this is that for a hurricane to occur, ocean temperatures must be at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26.7 Celsius), meaning the U.S. hurricane season takes place when sea surface temperatures are at their highest, from June to November.
Oceans have been heating up since 1975, something climate experts believe is due to human-induced global warming.
Environmental Defense has used U.S. government data to show how a Category Three storm, with a typical storm surge of between nine and 12 feet above normal, could potentially flood all of Miami Beach and much of downtown Miami.
A Category Five storm, the strongest, with surges of 18 feet or higher, would pose a risk to a much larger area, extending a long way inland.
Scientists say that this is a risk people face now, rather than in 50 or 100 years.
"People who are alive now could see tangible effect," said Richard Betts, manager of Climate Impacts at the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, part of Britain's government-run Meteorological Office.
"The tricky thing is that you can't really say a particular thing is going to happen at a particular time -- it's all about probabilities, increasing probabilities.
"The probability of an extreme event might be increasing, but the event may not happen for some time. On the other hand, it may catch you unawares."
One example of an unpredictable climate-related crisis was the intense heatwave around much of Europe in the summer of 2003, which killed an estimated 14,000 people in France alone.
"We estimate that that kind of event has become twice as likely as a result of human-caused climate change. It's possible to argue that something like that is what we are experiencing already," Betts said.
"It's just that the likelihood of these things tends to go up. They could happen at any time but they're more likely to happen as climate change kicks in."
While problems such as forest fires caused by hotter, drier summers could become more common, the most immediate threat was storm surges, Betts agreed.
"With sea levels there's two things you have to worry about. There's the gradual ongoing trend of a rise in the mean sea levels, but the thing that actually gets you is the storm surge," he explained.
"The intensity of hurricanes appears to be linked to sea surface temperatures and therefore to warming. With the actual numbers of storms, there has not been a clear link demonstrated yet."
Even Britain was being affected, he added, with one coastal rail line in southwest England regularly damaged by storm surges, while the capital's flood defenses were being reconsidered.
"Of course, just one event could have shocking implications from London, so they are really seriously considering improving the flood defenses," Betts said.
Do you think we face an immediate threat from more intense storms? Do you live in a coastal area -- and are you worried?
I live in Los Angeles, where the climate change threat is a different one. It's less rainfall, less snowfall in the Sierras, and a shrinking Sierra snow pack that melts too early in spring, making water less available to Southern California in the hot summer months.
I worry that people in general, and governments in particular, are doing nothing to stop and reverse what could easily become runaway global warming resulting in the predicted, catastrophic sea level rise.
From what I've read, it's critical that we drastically reduce carbon emissions now, within the next 10 years. Yet, global warming is not a major issue in the platform of either of the two major political parties in the United States.
The attitude seems to be that its catastrophic effects will not occur until those of us living today are long gone from Earth. No consideration is given to the possibility that our children and grandchildren will wake up from the beautiful dream that life is today to a nightmare crisis without immediate solution.
From what I understand, the technology to meaningfully reduce the probability of catastrophic global warming exists today. The people of the world, through their governments, need to collaborate to address the problem on a global scale now...
My answer is yes, there will be more powerful, destructive storms, and yes, I am surely worried.
But my biggest concern is what else are we doing to this planet's environment -- cutting trees and not replanting; not recycling everything in sight; not thinking about solar anything; not inventing a pollution reducer for cars.
There is a lot more that we could probably think of. But I guess going to war is more important.
I remember, 20 years ago there was snow drifts up 20 to 25 feet up to the power lines in Shediac. Now, in the last five years, we are lucky that we reach two to three feet, and we are getting less frost on the ground.
Have temperatures changed amazingly, just within two to three years? Are summers getting longer? Myself, I think it's worse than we think, but i guess only time will tell.
The Philippines are located between the China Sea and the Pacific Ocean. They are frequently visited by typhoons during the rainy season between June and November.
This year the weather is very different, the rainy season is longer, the typhoons are more frequent, and worst, much stronger. The major effect on the country is the devastation caused by typhoons, destructive floods and mudslides worsened by illegal logging and overpopulation.
I think this is very serious and requires concerted efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, especially among developed countries and developing nations with large populations such as neighboring China and India.
Do you think we face an immediate threat? Yes, I do. I think we are in for an intense storm, seeing we have not had one (here) since Hurricane Bob in 1992.
I live in a coastal area, we are pretty much surrounded by water, which is very scary. I have thought about this quite a bit recently and if there ever should be a bad storm, hurricane, etc, where would we evacuate?
I think we would all be in a world of trouble. There is only one way off the Cape, and that is very, very scary.
Sometimes I ask myself if it is possible to have a stable and mutually beneficial environment; an environment where humans live comfortably and will be free from disasters.
Well, the answer is yes because we can actually set our environment to work in symbiosis with what we give to it. Many will ask how this can be achieved -- for me its very simple and low-costing. What this requires is just for us to give an equal amount of what we release to the environment.
What I mean by this is, since we release plenty of carbon dioxide into the environment in one way or the other, there is the need for us to plant more trees knowing that they feed on this gas (i.e. photosynthesis). By doing this we are actually setting our environment up to work in symbiosis with what we give to it. We can see that the whole process is mutually beneficial because we inhabitants will be left with oxygen which we breath 27/7.
I heard today that within 15 years we will face the point of no return...
So it is no longer something that is "not in our lifetime". The implications of global warming are patently obvious and becoming more visible daily. Governments can no longer put their combined heads in the sand.
Only a combined global effort will save this beautiful blue planet -- it could be a start if all signed up to the Kyoto agreement.
I live in a province that is currently going through a boom because of the formerly skyrocketing oil prices. People here talk about how good things are and how long it is going to last.
Unfortunately, most people here do not realize what the consequences are going to be in the future. Even now, there are concerns about the environmental impact of our oil sands. Many billions of dollars have already been spent up there and some companies are starting to rethink their investments.
I think that governments need to rethink their strategy when it comes to energy, transportation and energy producers. I think that more regulation is needed in order to make these companies realize what effects they are having on the environment.
I consider this issue to be similar to the smoking issue. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE knows that smoking is harmful. Why is it still available? The governments are addicted to the taxes that they bring in. By eliminating cigarettes entirely, the money that would be saved in the health care area would more than replace any tax income lost.
Energy sectors are the same. Any money initially lost due to strengthening regulations would be recovered later by stopping or slowing the destruction caused by the stronger storms. What governments need to do is focus on the future savings, not the current costs.
Global warming is our current threat to the world, not only for the developed or developing nations, but to all humankind and life on Earth. It is affecting and will affect all of us and without discrimination against any race or religious belief. It is more serious than the threat from terrorism or other armed conflicts.
I'm thinking that humanity in general, including governments, military people, politicians, etc need more natural disasters to understand that human evolution cannot go forwards with self-destruction; consuming all natural resources just like oil.
Also remember: the future don't exists, the present is the only way to make a permanent existence.
The thing is that we are speeding global warming by global industrialization especially in Asian countries such as China and India.
No one can be blamed for the development of these countries. It is rather the developed countries' responsibility to promote saving the Earth with efforts like accepting and abiding by the Kyoto Protocol. We never know when we will say "It 's too late."
Mankind has been accustomed to such a lifestyle for quite a long time now. Most may see this article as another lecture that they couldn't care less about.
However, just saying such things blaming the carelessness of modern society cannot really change the future. The ignorance of mankind, or perhaps even the laziness of us all, clashing with the doom that awaits tomorrow, creates for us an impasse.
I think the insight of recent observations and studies is that the likelihood of a deadly storm is steadily increasing along with the increase of surface temperatures.
I believe that we (humanity) are indeed warming the planet. Its time all of humanity recognizes this truth.
I also believe that the first steps to preventing natural disasters like Katrina have been take, which was to make observations of variables that may play a part in creating these storms and informing the public of these observations.
If the public knows what scientists are learning, the public may be more willing to comply with changes that would have to be made. Eventually, changes will have to be made.
I believe we could greatly reduce our current rate for global warming simply by finding an alternate fuel source for our vehicles. I mean.... face it: not only is gasoline finite, it's hurting the only environment we have to live in.
The warming of the Earth is talked about more and more these days -- it is a global problem. No matter which corner are you in the world, from Arctic to Antarctic, you can definitely be convinced by the deadly fact that the Earth is becoming warmer and warmer, while this is threatening our living on the planet.
We have to ask ourselves, do we want to give up our accustomed luxury lifestyle, and adopt a healthy and environmentally-friendly living style? That is a serious choice, not only for Americans but also for those who live in developing countries and enjoy a relatively high-level life style.
Yes, I think we face an immediate threat from intense storm, and also from other natural disasters. I am always worried about how the globe will become.