Global Warming: More on the Fading Crisis

Delegates from some 180 nations are meeting in Buenos Aires to discuss implementation of the Kyoto Climate Change Protocol, an agreement aimed at curbing increases in carbon dioxide emissions that are claimed to cause destructive global warming. Drastic cuts in U.S. energy use and U.S. production of carbon dioxide are a part of the Kyoto agreement. But the latest scientific evidence indicates that the U.S. is not a significant contributor to the recent increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The evidence comes from a recent study by Princeton scientists which shows that the forests, soil, and wetlands of North America are sopping up as much CO2 as the U.S. and Canada are producing (S. Fan et. al., Science; October 16, 1998). Although U.S. and Canadian emissions amounted to roughly 1.6 billion tons of carbon as CO2 in 1990, their growing forests, soils, and wetlands absorbed approximately 1.7 billion tons of carbon.

One explanation for this surprising result is that CO2 is a nutrient for trees. When CO2 increases in the atmosphere, plant growth increases, absorbing part of the CO2 added to the atmosphere. This is called the greening effect of CO2.

This new finding means that the U.S. and Canada are actually contributing little or no net CO2 to the atmosphere. The U.S. will sustain severe economic losses if the deep cuts in U.S. CO2 emissions called for by the Kyoto Protocol are implemented, despite the fact that the U.S. is not contributing significantly to global CO2 increases.

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