The Climatological Significance of a Doubling of Earth's Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Concentration

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Science  28 Mar 1980:
Vol. 207, Issue 4438, pp. 1462-1463
DOI: 10.1126/science.207.4438.1462


The mean global increase in thermal radiation received at the surface of the earth as a consequence of a doubling of the atmospheric carbon dioxide content is calculated to be 2.28 watts per square meter. Multiplying this forcing function by the atmosphere's surface air temperature response function, which has recently been determined by three independent experimental analyses to have a mean global value of 0.113 K per watt per square meter, yields a value of ≤ 0.26 K for the resultant change in the mean global surface air temperature. This result is about one order of magnitude less than those obtained from most theoretical numerical models, but it is virtually identical to the result of a fourth experimental approach to the problem described by Newell and Dopplick. There thus appears to be a major discrepancy between current theory and experiment relative to the effects of carbon dioxide on climate. Until this discrepancy is resolved, we should not be too quick to limit our options in the selection of future energy alternatives.