Publication Date: July 2001
Publisher: Reason Foundation
Author(s): Kenneth Green; Steven R. Schroeder
Research Area: Environment
The major human activities that cause greenhouse gases to build up are the burning of wood and fossil fuels,
and changes in land use that result in fewer plants capturing less carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Since
the beginning of the industrial revolution (around 1750), carbon dioxide in the air has risen more than 30
percent, from 278 to 368 parts per million, and other carbon-containing greenhouse gas concentrations have
increased even more. Methane concentrations, for example, have risen by nearly 120 percent since the
beginning of the 19th century, from approximately 790 parts per billion in 1850, to the present level of over
1,725 parts per billion.
Concerns over potentially negative effects of prolonged global warming have stimulated interest in restraining
the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Proponents of immediate action favor measures aimed at
slowing or stopping the buildup of greenhouse gases by using less fossil fuel, or using it more efficiently. An
alternate approach that is gaining more attention shifts the focus away from slowing generation of greenhouse
gases to removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and storing--sequestering--them in a variety of
ways. This study focuses on those efforts.
Advocates of sequestration point to numerous benefits of this approach, including lower costs of carbon
dioxide control, reduced impact on lifestyles of people in developed countries, and greater ability to achieve
domestic greenhouse gas reductions without transferring wealth or technology abroad.