Often, when people find out I'm a biologist, they'll say "oh, can I ask you a question?" I dread hearing this, since the next thing out of their mouths either concerns global warming or evolution. I won't even touch on the latter other than to say that I have a quote of Darwin's on my wall. Now, in regards to global warming, I'm going to refer to it as global climate change in the post in order to reduce confusion on the issue.
What it is: global climate change just means that the patterns of climate are shifting. It implies no blame nor predicts how the patterns are changing. In my mind, this is pretty indisputable: there's definitely a shift in rain patterns, both temporally and in location of rain. This has happened in the past (read: dust bowl, ice ages, etc), and it's happening again. Just because it happened in the past doesn't mean it isn't something we shouldn't worry about. Changes in rain can alter crops, flooding, and forests.
The other issue is one of blame. This is complicated, and I frankly don't know much about it. Honestly, I've conceded the issue to climate scientists, and I trust them to be honest. As far as I know, the consensus from climate scientists is that humans do influence the global climate. Sure, there is always an environmental component that we can't control, but we are also influencing the climate. Guess what else influences the climate? Pretty much everything on the planet, including trees and other animals. So even if we're not the sole cause, we should still reflect and examine our role in influencing the planet. We all live here together, and there is nowhere else to go, so it's on all of us to take care of the planet.
In my mind, this needs to be a teamwork thing. It's not "us against them." It's not just first world countries or third world countries; we all have to work together to reduce our impact. And there's tons of ways to do so. I frequently mention little changes here on this blog, and we need to look to our government and businesses to implement large-scale changes.
Even if global climate change ends up to not be caused by humans, I still think there's benefits to be had when we examine how we influence the world around us. Case in point are stoves in third world countries. I've been working on this issue since I was 16 and building lorena stoves in Honduras (not that those were perfect by any means). In many third world countries, people still cook over a wood fire inside the house. This results in lots of little black flecks of particulate matter in the air. Some of this particulate matter harms their lungs; other particulate matter enters the air, travels on the wind, absorbs lots of heat from sunlight, and warms up whatever it lands on (for example, ice in the polar region). Helping these villagers make better stoves that produce less pollution results in benefits all around: less illness in their own village, less particulate matter all over the globe. One or two stoves changed won't make a difference, but if we can change over even half the stoves, there will be that much less junk floating around in our air.
I know this isn't a thorough scientific review nor even chock-full of examples. But it is my firm belief that reducing our emissions and the toxins we put into the air can only help, even if global climate change isn't something we can control. So remember this as you make your day-to-day choices; can you make a simple choice that might add up over time?