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CO2 is key to life on earth—yet many in the US think it should be classed as a pollutant. Plus, why a "design flaw" in proteins may be the cause of dementia

By Philip Ball   November 2006

Dangerous gases

Carbon dioxide is essential for life on earth—without it there would be no photosynthesis, which provides nearly all the metabolic energy of the biosphere. Natural sources generate hundreds of billions of tonnes of CO2 every year, without which the planet would be close to freezing everywhere. So how can 12 US states be bringing a case to the supreme court arguing that CO2 is a pollutant and must be regulated?

The simple answer is that human-made CO2, as the principal greenhouse gas, is apparently responsible for most of the global warming of the past century. The more we…

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