- Experiments carried out from a submarine
three kilometres under the ocean have poured cold water on one of the more
ambitious schemes for dealing with global warming.
- The idea was to store the carbon dioxide
produced by the burning of fossil fuels under the ocean, stopping it from
getting into the atmosphere and adding to the greenhouse effect.
- In theory this would have reduced the
rate of global warming, but now a report in the journal Science suggests
that putting the idea into practice may not be so simple.
- Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere acts
like a blanket over the Earth, trapping heat in, causing the planet to
- The gas is released into the air from
burning fossil fuels, so the obvious answer is to cut down on their use.
- The idea of storing the carbon dioxide
out of harm's way deep in the oceans is a more radical proposal.
- The high pressures and low temperatures
on the sea bed should force the carbon dioxide to form a type of solid
known as gas hydrate, which should remain safely locked away and not reach
- To test this, researchers from the Monterey
Bay Aquarium Research Institute in the United States took flasks of carbon
dioxide down to the sea floor in a submarine, and then watched what happened.
- The gas did react with the seawater to
form hydrates, but these expanded rapidly and started to dissolve.
- As a result the researchers concluded
that it is unlikely that large amounts of carbon dioxide would remain in
an undersea store for any length of time.
- This is disappointing for those who hoped
it might offer a long term solution for gas disposal.
- However, the carbon dioxide might remain
in the depths for a few decades, by which time technology might offer another
solution to the problem of storing it.