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'Carbon sequestration' is a fancy phrase for 'bury the CO2.'

By Jessica Lussenhop

As we careen toward a swampy future without ice caps or polar bears, some scientists have put their stake in carbon sequestration--essentially storing atmospheric carbon someplace where it cannot contribute to the greenhouse gas effect or to climate change. "Things like taking CO2 out of the air and putting it into geologic formations many miles under the surface of the earth, pumping CO2 back into old decommissioned oil wells or other kinds of deep locations like that," says Dr. Michael Loik, an associate professor of climate change ecology at UCSC. "You can use soda lime, which is a type of calcium-based substance, to have CO2 molecules adhere to the surface. You take air and pump it through a container of soda lime. It's much more complex than that--there are various chemical and physical processes."

But of course, the concept has its fair share of troubles. "Right now there are no operating prototypes in the United States because insurance agencies aren't willing to underwrite the risk of a leak in CO2. It could actually be lethal to humans and livestock and everything else," says Loik. "I'm leery because of unintended consequences and the cost and how much emissions do you release--these things are going to take energy to accomplish."

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