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Carbon dioxide is a gas comprising less than 004 of the atmosphereIt is used by plants to make directly or indirectly all of the food that we eatIncreases in the concentration of carbon dioxide generally increase the growthrate of plants and decrease their water use The concentration of carbondioxide in the atmosphere is increasing mostly as a result of burning of coaloil gas and forests Its concentration may double by the end of the nextcentury Carbon dioxide also significantly influences the Earths climatedespite its small concentration because it is a greenhouse gasGreenhouse gases are so named because they trap heat near the earthssurface and prevent it from being radiated back into space With too fewgreenhouse gases Earth would be too cold for life and with too many it wouldbe too hot Mans activities are changing the concentration of greenhouse gasesin the atmosphere and there is concern that this may significantly change theclimate Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas second in importance only to watervapor Other pollutants such as methane and CFCs chlorofluorocarbons arealso greenhouse gasesIs the Greenhouse Effect Increasing There is no doubt that the concentrationof some greenhouse gases is increasing For example carbon dioxide hasincreased by 25 in the last 100 years and continues to increase rapidly Whatis uncertain is whether the altered greenhouse effect has changed the Earthsclimate Some scientists believe there is data indicating that the Earthsclimate has already warmed others feel that there are too many other causes ofvariation in temperature to be sure that temperature has changed or that anincreased greenhouse effect is responsibleHow may the climate change Predicting climate is extremely complex and thereare many uncertainties such as the role of clouds and effects of otheratmospheric pollutants such as sulfur dioxide As carbon dioxide concentrationincreases many global climatic models predict an increase in averagetemperature of as much as 10 degrees F Patterns of precipitation may changewith some areas becoming wetter and some drier The frequency of extremes of
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