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Global warming

The rise in the surface temperature of the Earth caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Although carbon dioxide (CO2) is only the fourth most abundant gas in the atmosphere, it is vitally important in maintaining the Earth's surface temperature. Along with water vapor, CO2 absorbs infrared (long-wave) radiation given off by the Earth, and reradiates this energy back to the Earth's surface, keeping our planet much warmer [average surface temperature of 15°C (59°F)]) than it would be otherwise. This trapping of incoming solar radiation is known as the greenhouse effect.