Even if we were to halt all greenhouse gas emissions today (which is practically impossible), we wouldn't see any significant reversal of global climate change trends for many years. In fact, it could take as long as 1,000 years to return to a climate similar to that of the Earth in its pre-industrial state [source: NOAA]. As a result of this prediction, many believe that in addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we need to find a way to capture the carbon from the atmosphere and recycle it in such a way that it's no longer a greenhouse gas. The process of artificially removing carbon from the atmosphere is known as carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). There are a few facilities that already do this on an industrial scale. For example, the Sleipner natural gas drilling platform, which is a project of the Norwegian energy company Statoil, employs a process that separates carbon dioxide from useful natural gas and buries the CO2 deep under the bed of the North Sea [source: CNN].
While CCS is certainly helping the world by lessening the amounts of CO2 entering the atmosphere, people must keep in mind that simply capturing CO2 isn't enough. Manufacturing companies must find ways to lower their total emissions. In the event that a company is unable to build an entirely new low-emission factory, CCS is a good option to help clean up operations. Many opponents of CCS believe that while the system is useful, companies should be more focused on lessening the use of fossil fuels entirely instead of finding ways to reduce the waste they create. Other opponents simply believe that CCS is unrealistic to implement properly due to the expense of constructing and operating a CCS plant.
Scientists are working on several experiments to separate carbon dioxide from other gases and convert it into a fuel. The ultimate goal is to create a closed loop: We create fuel from the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. When we burn that fuel, we release new carbon dioxide. Then we harvest that carbon dioxide to make more fuel.
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