A few months back, after watching An Inconvenient Truth, it occurred to me that Al Gore presented his audiences with an extremely pessimistic view about our future prospects. Slowly but surely, backlash is building up in protest of his fantastic assertions of impending disaster.
After having marinated in my mind for a bit, my opinions still mostly agree with my initial thoughts on the matter. Governments need to be made aware of the consequences of global warming so they can adequately prepare for them. I didn't seriously consider most of the specifics of what Gore said in the film. To me, Gore necessarily over-simplified his argument in order to generate, as he calls it, political will from the general populace. As one would expect, a number of scientists are uncomfortable with such tactics. For a slightly more detailed treatment of the global warming crisis, one can read Spencer Weart's article.
As my officemate Aaron points out, at some point in the foreseeable future, we will run out of fossil fuels to burn. When that happens, we will probably just stop releasing such egregious amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. If CO2 levels stabilize, the the effect of CO2 on global warming will stabilize. To put it simply, if greenhouse gases are the primary contributors to global warming, and we run of out reasons to produce them in bulk, then global warming will discontinue. Even if the actual situation is truly that simple, it's unclear just how far the temperature will rise in the meantime. But there is a limit on the amount of "devastation" we can cause to the planet in this fashion.
Personally, given the fact that the Earth used to be much warmer at times in the past, I'd bet on global warming to continue even if we cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. But since I'm not a betting man, I'd rather have scientists undertake more basic research on the subject, engineers devise ways of dealing with the side effects of a presumably inevitable global warming trend, and for governments to not be effected by knee jerk reactions to either support or deny views shared by Al Gore and his followers, lest we make choices which have a more devastating economic impact than global warming ever will... probably.