Can we bury our CO2 problem in the ocean?

CO2 Problem: Author's Note

Josh Clark, Senior Writer
Josh Clark, Senior Writer
howstuffworks 2009

I pitched this article several years ago after hearing about the concept of carbon capture and storage. The whole concept is beautiful: We keep burning fossil fuels as much as we like, but we capture the carbon dioxide before it can pollute the air and we store it. In this scenario, the storage is in large bags at the sea bottom, where temperatures are cool enough and the pressure great enough that captured CO2 gas will convert to a globby, semi-solid state that is easier to contain.

I also came across other ideas for where we can store carbon dioxide, like in empty aquifers, and a number of ways to capture it, like before, during or after combustion. But all of them gave me the same sense of excitement, that humans could not only use, but also capture and reuse their waste. The end goal of carbon capture and sequestration, I learned, is to form a closed circle, where spent CO2 is repressurized into useable carbon fuel again and again. Not only does it cut down on pollution, it provides energy security as well. Years later, I came across this example as a central theme of the new Anthropocene age of geology -- humans using ingenuity to both exploit and protect the planet, causing as little damage as possible along the way.


  • Celia, Michael A. "How hydrogeology can save the world." Ground Water. March-April 2002.
  • Drazen, Jeff. "Deep-sea fishes." University of Hawaii.
  • Florence, Joseph. "2005 hottest year on record." Earth Policy Institute. 2008.
  • Renner, Michael. "Five hundred million cars, one planet - who's going to give?" World Watch. August 8, 2003.
  • "Carbon cycle." Center for Educational Technologies. November 10, 1994.
  • "Greenhouse gases, climate change, and energy." U.S. Department of Energy.
  • "How can a gallon of gasoline produce 20 pounds of carbon dioxide." U.S. Department of Energy.
  • "Into the abyss: Deep-sixing carbon." Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. February 18, 2008.
  • "IPCC special report: Carbon dioxide capture and storage." United Nations International Panel on Climate Change. September 2005. SummaryforPolicymakers.pdf
  • "Ocean studied for carbon dioxide storage." CNN. May 10, 1999.