Studies of the sources and the increases of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have been both frustrating and alarming; frustrating because so little is known and alarming because the potential consequences could be so grave (Eos, November 15, 1983, p. 929). The nature of the complexities have recently been focused upon by studies of the carbon cycle at the earth's surface and its influence on the atmosphere. It turns out that most of the increases of atmospheric carbon dioxide are from two sources: (1) petroleum and coal use and (2) the clearing of major forested lands.
It is generally acknowledged that fossil fuel use has declined sharply during the past several years and that the deforestation of large areas under development will end. A recent review of current thinking on the effects of global deforestation by G.M. Woodwell and others stated that, “appropriate action taken now might reduce or eliminate the problem. Stabilization of the rate of combustion of fossil fuels combined with a program of reforestation would contribute toward stabilizing the CO2 content of the atmosphere … we need not accept as inexorable a global warming due to the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere” (Science, 222, 1081-1086, 1983).