Many people now accept that human-created climate change is affecting the Earth's environment right now. But a new report has warned it could soon hit people where they really notice it -- their pockets.
According to a study by a leading economist, commissioned by the British government, unchecked climate change could shrink the global economy by 20%, causing devastation on a similar scale to the two world wars or the Great Depression of the 1930s.
It also warns that without action, up to 200 million people could become refugees due to flooding or drought.
However, Nicholas Stern's 700-page report also stresses that given sufficient international co-operation, this effect could be checked through a far smaller spend, amounting to around 1% of global gross domestic product.
The much anticipated report looks set to herald a series of new "green" taxes by the British government, intended to push the country's population into being more environmentally friendly.
The government of Prime Minister Tony Blair -- who said the consequences of inaction would be "literally disastrous" -- has asked former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, now a vocal environmental advocate, to serve as an adviser on the issue.
Blair, in power since 1997, called the study the most important report on the future published by this government in its time in office."
"What is not in doubt is that the scientific evidence of global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions is now overwhelming," he said.
"It is not in doubt that if the science is right, the consequences for our planet are literally disastrous. This disaster is not set to happen in some science fiction future many years ahead, but in our lifetime.
"Unless we act now ... these consequences, disastrous as they are, will be irreversible."
The main argument by Stern, a former World Bank economist, is that the benefits of coordinated action around the world to tackle global warming will greatly outweigh any financial costs.
"Whilst there is much more we need to understand -- both in science and economics -- we know enough now to be clear about the magnitude of the risks, the timescale for action and how to act effectively," Stern said.
"That's why I'm optimistic, having done this review, that we have the time and knowledge to act. But only if we act internationally, strongly and urgently."
It is this need for international agreement which could prove difficult.
In 1997, UN members agreed the Kyoto Protocol, which called on the world's 35 richest countries to cut carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels in power plants, factories and cars.
However, the United States, the globe's biggest single polluter, pulled out with President George W. Bush saying it would affect the country's economy.
Developing nations such as China and India are also wary of signing up to environmental accords they fear could constrict their own rapid economic growth.
What do you think?
People need to realize that if we don't change our ways immediately, devastation will happen and there will not be any profits anyways. People are just not taking global warming seriously enough due to their selfishness and greed. US President Bush obviously has his own interests, and it's sad that people of the United States are completely oblivious to what is happening.
Australia and the U.S. are the biggest contributors of CO2, yet their leaders look to their own short-term profits to justify not committing to the Kyoto Protocol. Their analysts have clearly not informed them of the cost to their economies if they DO NOT reduce CO2 emissions and quickly.
The fact is their 'business as usual' approach affects the entire planet. Leadership is about ensuring the security and well being of your nation and that of your neighbors for generations to come. Australia and the US have failed in this regard. Yet it is the rest of the populated and natural world that will also have to pay the price.
I argue they do not have this right. The greatest threat facing everyone is a undisputed global climate change. It is no longer about individual countries and their own self interest. Any leader of substance knows this.
I think that the U.S. should at least try to decrease greenhouse gases because there are new ways that help reduce carbon dioxide emissions and actually save money! If the president says that it will affect the economy he obviously hasn't studied the issue enough.
I think that even if the economy dropped a little, it's for the salvation of our planet and our lives! How could he put the economy in front of the entire human population's future?
I think that it is sad that the Bush Administration is not helping the environment, but instead folding into Big Oil's demands. I think it is now up to Congress to do something. The president needs to stop finding excuses and do something for the environment.
It's based on data, as well as a self evident fact, that climate change is a reality. However, the global warming debate continues to rage between nations and scientists, as well as corporations.
Did any one think about the consequences of the actions of man at the beginning of the industrial revolution, with the invention of the steam engine? Or did any one think about the consequences of the first automobiles after they were manufactured?
It is truly sad that the news from the scientific community about global climate change has gone unheard until an economist ties global climate change to a decline in the profits of major corporations.
As if catastrophic storms, flooding from melting polar ice and devastating climate shifts causing drought and starvation are not enough to catch the attention of slimy corporate prostitutes like George W. Bush.
This is what I have been saying for years.