Increased Carbon Dioxide Concentrations and Climate: The Equilibrium Response
Unlike some other pollutants introduced into the atmosphere by Man, carbon dioxide is naturally occurring and non-toxic. The direct effect of increased concentrations may be beneficial notably because it will tend to increase the rate of photosynthesis in plants. On the other hand, there may be deleterious effects through its influence on climate but this is still unproven and we cannot be certain whether, on a global scale, it will on the whole be harmful or beneficial. Taking an extreme view, it has been suggested that the induced climatic warming might be sufficient to cause surging and melting of glaciers and lead to the inundation of vast tracts of coastal land surface, with serious consequences for all mankind (see also Oerlemans this volume). A more general view seems to be that while some areas of the globe might experience a significant deterioration of the climate, in many parts the changes will be either beneficial or difficult to distinguish within the natural variability (see also Kellogg this volume). A third view is possible; that because of limitations in their formulations, models tend to exaggerate the effect on climate, and that consequently, no significant change will be observed. The strategy which should be adopted for research on carbon dioxide depends on which view is correct.
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