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In order to combat global warming, would it be possible to electrolyze carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to produce oxygen and stop the greenhouse effect?
Question Date: 2008-04-23
Answer 1:

That's a great question. The good news is, electrolysis does split apart many types of molecules, and it could be used for CO2. The bad news is, it hardly works at all for CO2, partly because CO2 is a gas.

The good news is, there are other techniques that can split apart CO2, with the help of catalysts and/or intense light. The bad news is, every technique requires more energy than you got by burning the carbon in the first place.

Some folks have proposed a slightly different idea which also uses chemistry. Instead of trying to break the CO2 apart, we could try to react it with some kind of mineral (magnesium oxide or calcium oxide), so you could bury it underground. Then it would not contribute to the greenhouse effect in the atmosphere. Unfortunately, that means mining for HUGE amounts of these minerals, which would cause major environmental damage as well. For example, the world burns about one cubic *mile* of coal every year. (A full mountain's worth!) For mineral storage to work, we would have to also mine an even larger amount of minerals, and then find a safe place to bury them.

For now, the best solutions are to try to burn less carbon to begin with. We can be efficient users of energy starting right now--and save money, too!

Answer 2:

No. Oxygen has nothing to do with the greenhouse effect. Carbon dioxide does, but there is way too much of it to electrolyze any substantial amount, and electrolyzing water would just lead to the creation of more water later.

Answer 3:

The problem is that it would take a HUGE amount of energy to do this on a large scale... and getting THAT energy would generate more greenhouse gas then could be broken down. So its a losing proposition.

Answer 4:

No because the electrolysis of carbon dioxide produces carbon monoxide (another greenhouse gas) in addition to oxygen gas.

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