CO2 principal climate 'control knob', study confirms

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the principal 'control knob' that governs Earth's climate, a new climate modelling study by Andrew Lacis of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies confirms. The study sought to resolve misunderstands around the relative role of water vapour and CO2 as important greenhouse gasses.

The study showed that while water vapour provides the strongest feedback of the greenhouse gases (GHGs), it is not the cause (forcing) of global climate change. Without the radiative forcing provided by noncondensing GHGs, the most important of which is CO2, levels of water vapour would also decline and atmospheric temperatures would rapidly drop. A companion study led by one of the co-authors quantifies that CO2 is responsible for 80 per cent of the radiative forcing that sustains the greenhouse effect.

"The bottom line is that atmospheric carbon dioxide acts as a thermostat in regulating the temperature of Earth," said Andres Lacis. "It is not surprising then that global warming can be linked directly to the observed increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide and to human industrial activity in general."

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