Principles Guiding Our Work on Carbon Dioxide Removal & the Ocean
Updated May 2022
Ocean Visions is committed to accelerating research, development and testing of ocean-based technologies that might safely draw down and sequester carbon dioxide – commonly referred to as ocean-based carbon dioxide removal. Our work is predicated on, and guided by, the following core principles:
- Earth is in the midst of a climate crisis – the evidence is overwhelming. The scale and pace of changes and impacts observed are larger and sooner than predicted by many climate models.
- The ocean, home to incredible biodiversity and provider of critical services to humanity, has been heavily impacted from the resulting climate disruption, through massive ocean warming, ocean acidification, and deoxygenation. Efforts to protect and restore vitally important ocean ecosystems and functions cannot be considered in isolation from the imperative of ameliorating and reversing climate impacts.
- The current climate action agenda has been focused predominantly on reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. While this work continues to be of the utmost importance, because of our delays reduction alone is not sufficient. Carbon dioxide removal will also be needed to complement reductions and to eventually reverse the ongoing climate disruption being caused by the existing buildup of greenhouse gases, which has already warmed our planet ~1.1°C, and is impairing the health of the ocean now.
- Given the large buildup of historical emissions in our atmosphere and our slow pace at decarbonization, we now must remove carbon dioxide from our atmosphere. According to the IPCC, we must remove between 100 and 1000 billion tons of carbon dioxide this century to have a chance of avoid warming the planet by more than 1.5°C, a threshold that scientists have identified at which climate impacts become substantially more severe.
- Limiting warming to 1.5°C should not be confused for being a safe target for many of Earth’s ecosystems, including marine ecosystems. A world of 1.5°C of warming would result in more intense and frequent marine heatwaves, greater ocean acidification, and increased deoxygenation in the ocean. Many critical marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs, kelp forests, and seagrass meadows, will undergo irreversible changes or die off in a world with 1.5°C of warming.
- To stop the impacts of climate change on Earth’s ecosystems, including marine ecosystems, we will need to reverse the climb of carbon dioxide pollution by developing methods to permanently remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at the same time that work continues in many sectors to stop emitting it. Developing effective methods to permanently remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere can help halt the rise of carbon dioxide pollution and offer a path for repairing our climate over the long-term.
- There are a number of potential technology-based pathways to remove and sequester carbon dioxide. All of them require additional research, development, testing, and evaluation to determine which may ultimately be most useful to society.
- The ocean offers a number of methods to remove and sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. These methods may be able to help meet carbon removal targets, but at present we do not have enough research and testing to know the efficacy and impacts of these methods.
- Accelerated and expanded research and development on ocean-based carbon dioxide removal pathways are urgently needed.
- Controlled field trials must be a core part of research and development. Controlled field trials, informed by observational, modeling, and laboratory studies, are an essential component of a complete research and development program because they provide the best information to evaluate efficacy and impacts in a real environment.
- Research and development must be accompanied by rigorous and transparent monitoring and evaluation frameworks to study environmental, social, and economic effects. This is critical to avoid unintended consequences and to expand public confidence in the research.
- Planning, testing, development, and any potential future deployment of ocean-based carbon dioxide removal methods also requires sound and inclusive governance systems. Governance systems must provide mechanisms to balance the risks of testing ocean-based carbon dioxide removal technologies against the risks of failing to develop adequate solutions to the climate crisis. Governance systems should also facilitate information sharing to ensure that ocean-based carbon dioxide removal develops equitably and globally.
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 Aspen Institute (2021): Guidance for Ocean-Based Carbon Dioxide Removal Projects: A Pathway to Developing a Code of Conduct. Available for download: https://www.aspeninstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/files/content/docs/pubs/120721_Ocean-Based-CO2-Removal_E.pdf
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About Ocean Visions
The impacts of the climate crisis are devastating to the global ocean and have greatly diminished its ability to buffer climate impacts. Ocean health and conservation require new approaches and new solutions to these unprecedented changes. Ocean Visions brings together oceanographic and academic research institutions, marine resource managers, conservation organizations, investors, entrepreneurs, and governments to collaborate on the identification, development, testing, and deployment of scalable and equitable solutions to these existential challenges. Learn more about our approach, explore our programs, and join our efforts.