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The greenhouse effect has been part of the earth's workings since its earliest days. Gases like carbon dioxide and methane allow sunlight to reach the earth, but prevent some of the resulting heat from radiating back out into space. Without the greenhouse effect, the planet would never have warmed enough to allow life to form. But as ever larger amounts of carbon dioxide have been released along with the development of industrial economies, the atmosphere has grown warmer at an accelerating rate: Since 1970, temperatures have gone up at nearly three times the average for the 20th century.
The latest report from the climate panel predicted that the global climate is likely to rise between 3.5 and 8 degrees Fahrenheit if the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere reaches twice the level of 1750. By 2100, sea levels are likely to rise between 7 to 23 inches, it said, and the changes now underway will continue for centuries to come.
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