It is now generally accepted that the burning of fossil fuels in conventional power stations releases large volumes of carbon dioxide gas into the atmosphere, and that the gas reduces the loss of heat from the Earth, so producing global warming.
This is resulting in adverse climate changes, the melting of the polar ice caps, and an increase in the sea level. This is already evident in an increase in seasonal high tide levels in the Pacific. Some of the coral atolls will become uninhabitable within the next ten years and agriculture is adversely affected by groundwater contamination by seawater. Coral reefs are also damaged by the increasing acidity of seawater, which results from the increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the sea.
At present, with the possible exception of France (which produces most of its energy needs in nuclear power stations), the developing countries derive the majority of their energy supplies from fossil fuels, principally natural gas, oil and coal. The rate of generation of carbon dioxide gas is now such tht the world will be uninhabitable within 50 years, unless the capture of carbon dioxide is introduced urgently.
The sequestration of carbon dioxide, to halt and possibly reverse global warming, is now being researched. The most likely method of capturing carbon dioxide, is to store it under pressure in suitable subterranean porous rock strata. If this proves to be possible, and if suitable rock strata are available in reasonable proximity to existing and planned coal-fired power stations, the cost of permanent storage of the large amounts of carbon dioxide will increase the cost of power generation, possibly by as much as 50%. Inevitably, this cost must be included when comparing the relative costs of alternative power generation technologies.
Research is also being carried out to develop the use of algae to consume CO2, to produce simple organic compounds. Other recent research has suggested that a high temperature catalytic process may produce more complex organic compounds.