Rising carbon dioxide and global temperatures are causing increasing worldwide concern, and pressure towards an international law of the atmosphere is rapidly escalating, yet widespread misconceptions about the greenhouse effect's inevitability, time scale, and causes have inhibited effective consensus and action. Observations from Antarctic ice cores, Amazonian rain forests, and Carribean coral reefs suggest that the biological effects of climate change may be more severe than climate models predict. Efforts to limit emissions from fossil-fuel combustion alone are incapable of stabilizing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Stabilizing atmospheric carbon dioxide requires coupled measures to balance sources and sinks of the gas, and will only be viable with large-scale investments in increased sustainable productivity on degraded tropical soils, and in long-term research on renewable energy and biomass product development in the developing countries. A mechanism is outlined which directly links fossil-fuel combustion sources of carbon dioxide to removal via increasing biotic productivity and storage. A preliminary cost-benefit analysis suggests that such measures are very affordable, costing far less than inaction. (With 88 refs.).