The following is a brief, simplified explanation of where we are with global warming science:
Carbon dioxide traps outgoing radiation and increased CO2 concentration (other factors equal) should trap more heat causing a warming effect, especially at night. However, we do not fully understand the extent (i.e., linear, logarithmic*?) of that process and we do not understand its net interaction with clouds and with particles in the atmosphere (called aerosols by atmospheric scientists) to get a complete picture of its effect on the atmosphere.
There is no reliable evidence – none – that storms are getting worse because of ‘global warming.’ Increases in the dollar amounts of damage are a result of inflation and putting more and more valuable development (i.e., mansions in Miami near the coast) in harm’s way.
The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been severely compromised by a number individuals’ dishonest and anti-science behavior (“Climategate”). It is hoped the recommendations made by an independent review panel two weeks ago will result in a more scientific and trustworthy product in the future.
Current solar and ocean conditions indicate to me that the atmosphere will cool significantly in the next 3 to 5 years. The IPCC forecast is for warming. This divergence of forecasts and the data relating to them will likely give us a far better understanding of the threat posed by increasing carbon dioxide no later than 2015.
If temperatures warm in spite of cooling oceans and weak solar activity, the IPCC’s case (at least for this atmospheric scientist) would be greatly strengthened (that CO2 is the primary driver of changes in climate). Given this opportunity and based on the currently available science, there is no reason that major decisions to restructure world economies need to be made before that time.
A note for clarity: With the above said, I believe we do need to move away from traditional energy sources if for no other reason than to preserve coal, oil and natural gas as valuable chemical feedstocks. New generation nuclear (especially thorium) technology may make energy much more widely available at less cost than current energy sources.
Solar looks very promising to me.
* A linear relationship treats every extra cubic foot of CO2 the same. With a logarithmic relationship, there is a diminishing effect for each additional cubic foot. To illustrate, think of a hot tub without a cover. The first inch-thick piece of insulating styrofoam will have a much greater effect trapping heat than, say, the 20th sheet.