The Kyoto Accord to reduce "greenhouse" gas emissions faces a hazy future in the United States. A host of unresolved political and scientific issues swirls around the tentative plan to curb global warming-including the degree to which greenhouse gases actually affect the environment. Kyoto sets the stage for science, politics, and public opinion to interact on the largest possible scale, and, some would say, at the highest possible stakes. Science's pivotal role is to take on a formidable challenge-to convince both Congress and the public to reduce CO2 emissions, by providing a more precise measure of the impact increased amounts of CO2 will have on the planet and how, exactly, that increase will affect life.

The accord, hammered out by 38 industrialized nations at the United Nations climate conference in Kyoto, Japan, December 1-10, would allow the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere to double over preindustrial...

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