Each year, mankind injects approximately six billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels, as well as a substantial (although still uncertain) amount from deforestation. Since the advent of the industrial revolution, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have risen by more than twenty-five percent, from 280 to more than 350 parts per million (ppm). Scientists estimate that if current patterns of emissions continue unchecked, the increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide, together with parallel increases in other trace gases such as methane and nitrous oxide, will cause an average global warming in the range of 0.2 to 0.50 C per decade, or 2 to 50 C (3.6 to 90 F) by the end of the next century. Such a temperature rise, more rapid than at any time in human history, could have severe effects on coastal areas, agriculture, forests, and human health.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change: A Commentary,
Yale J. Int'l L.
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