The premise is that, based primarily on the International Panel on Climate Change's 2007 report, "both past and future [human-caused] carbon dioxide emissions will continue to contribute to warming and sea level rise for more than a millennium, due to the time scales required for removal of this gas from the atmosphere." (Note: if you want a relatively short but scientifically accurate summary of climate change science, read the Summary for Policy Makers [pdf].) Compound that with a 2006 UK report [pdf] and a 2007 U.S. military report that claim the costs of inaction will be greater than the costs of action now and that third-world countries, already struggling and many unstable, will be the hardest hit by climate change.
Climate change will cause:
- changed precipitation and temperature patterns, which will lead to:
- changes in growing conditions for many plants and crops (better in some areas, probably worse in others) - economic
- habitat changes, pressuring native, endemic, specialist, and endangered species, while allowing the range expansion of low-elevation or tropical species including agricultural pests and vectors for disease - emotional and economic
- exacerbation of health problems, like all the heat spells in Europe and the U.S. over the past few years have caused lots of deaths (particularly for the elderly) - economic and emotional
- glacial melt, which will lead to:
- pressure on high elevation species and habitat types - emotional
- water shortages in glacial fed lakes and rivers, making them poorer quality habitat for fish like salmon that require certain water flow to aerate their eggs etc, and causing water shortages for humans - economic and emotional
- sea level rise, which will cause flooding in coastal communities--flooding that will disrupt economic activity and create refugees that, according to the military report above, will decrease world stability (movies of sea level rise impact on major U.S. cities, google maps mashup starting on San Francisco showing different sea level rises) - economic and emotional
among other effects. But of course, this is surely all impossible since I doubt you can sue based on presumed/future harm--which would make sense, but doesn't help me (or the planet)!