The Greenhouse Theory of Climate Change: A Test by an Inadvertent Global Experiment

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Science  15 Apr 1988:
Vol. 240, Issue 4850, pp. 293-299
DOI: 10.1126/science.240.4850.293


Since the dawn of the industrial era, the atmospheric concentrations of several radiatively active gases have been increasing as a result of human activities. The radiative heating from this inadvertent experiment has driven the climate system out of equilibrium with the incoming solar energy. According to the greenhouse theory of climate change, the climate system will be restored to equilibrium by a warming of the surfacetroposphere system and a cooling of the stratosphere. The predicted changes, during the next few decades, could far exceed natural climate variations in historical times. Hence, the greenhouse theory of climate change has reached the crucial stage of verification. Surface warming as large as that predicted by models would be unprecedented during an interglacial period such as the present. The theory, its scope for verification, and the emerging complexities of the climate feedback mechanisms are discussed.