When it comes to climate change, we all know what the problem is. There’s too much CO2 in the atmosphere. This atmospheric composition lets energy from the sun in, but doesn’t let it out, causing the planet to warm as a result. There’s a straightforward line of thinking when it comes to solving this problem: If there’s too much CO2 in the atmosphere, why not just suck it all out? Human beings are smart; we’ve invented tools that can handle this task. It’s called carbon capture and storage (CCS), and, on the face of it, it seems as though it would handle our main problem pretty well.

Here’s how CCS technology works. There are a variety of methods, but one of the most common is to install a machine at the source of the pollution, like a coal plant, for instance, and pass the polluting gas through a liquid solution. This solution contains chemicals similar to ammonia which sticks to the CO2. Everything else bubbles through the solution, and the result is a CO2-free gas. Then, you can heat the solution up to unbind the CO2 molecules, allowing you to reuse the liquid and store the CO2 for whatever purpose you have in mind.

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