I want to blame the heat and drought this summer on global warming. But, in all good conscience, I can't. It's been this hot and dry here before. It will be again.
That said, it doesn't mean that global warming isn't occurring and that humans' release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere isn't a primary cause. But you can't look at the weather in any one location and conclude anything, one way or another. The concept is GLOBAL warming or CLIMATE change, not Kansas warming or weather change.
Naysayers point to local cold snaps and triumphantly screech, "See! There can't be any WARMING going on!" But that's no more valid than someone pointing to this summer's local heat and drought to prove that global warming is, indeed, occurring.
Can scientists predict exactly what's going to happen and when? No. The Earth is a very complex system that we, as humans, will probably never completely understand. Even powerful computers come up with different results, based on their programming and on the data fed into them.
As I understand it, though, there are some commonalities to all the models. The weather is going to become increasingly unpredictable compared to the recent historical record, swinging more wildly from highs to lows, tending towards drought or deluge, with little stable or moderate weather. Storms are predicted to be bigger. Droughts deeper. Floods more frequent. Some historically wet places will become dry. Some historically dry places may become wet. Ocean currents that have been stable for centuries may change course. Glaciers and ice caps will melt. Ocean levels will rise.
If the Gulf Stream ceases to flow (as some models have predicted), Europe will enter a deep freeze. Global warming will seem like The Big Freeze to folks there, if that occurs. This is GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE we're talking about, not local weather change.
Ice core samples from Greenland and other deep ice masses show that climate change, when it comes, is usually rapid. It's called "punctuated equilibrium": long periods of stability, interspersed with shot periods of rapid change.
Glaciers worldwide, as well as the polar ice caps, are melting. Now. Ice in the Arctic is at historic lows for this time of year...once again. The articles I've seen about this particular change tend to focus on the positive: better shipping channels to move goods around the world. The fabled "Northwest Passage" becoming reality. The polar bears, though, aren't having such a good time of it.
Do I have a crystal ball to predict the future? No. I just have probability based on trends from the past...and the current best understanding of about 95% of the scientific community. Those trends and that understanding tell me that we're performing a great big experiment on the only home we have...because it's too hard to voluntarily change our way of life.
So we'll wait until the Earth forces us to change it. And hope that we like what happens next.