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One of the principal causes of global warming is the vast amount of carbon dioxide we pump into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas and oil. One approach to mitigating climate change is to find ways to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by storing it away in places such as the ocean depths, disused oil wells, or suitable geological formations. The general term for the technique is carbon sequestration. It is as yet experimental, with only one test project — in the North Sea off Britain.

The federal government in Australia is keen on the idea, under the more specific title of geosequestration to indicate that the carbon dioxide will be stored in suitable rock strata and not in the oceans. Sites are described by the acronym ESSCI, which stands for “Environmentally Sustainable Site for CO2 Injection”, a pun on the Esky, an Australian trademark for a container to keep food or drink cool. The proposal has aroused some controversy, partly because one possible site, at Barrow Island off the north-west coast, is a nature reserve, but also because the scheme may be diverting funds and attention away from ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the first place.

The green lobby was concerned that geosequestration — the process planned to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from Australian Power and Energy Limited’s proposed $6billion plant — was an infant technology that it said had not been tried on land before.

The Age (Melbourne), Jul. 200

Increasingly, industry is interested in exploring geosequestration activities as options for long-term greenhouse gas disposal.

Greenhouse News (newsletter of the
Australian Greenhouse Office), Winter 2002

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

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Last modified: 8 March 2003.