Barriers to Increasing Public Acceptance

“Vicious Cycle” of Low Investment/Low Awareness

For some technologies, public awareness and technological readiness can exist in a virtuous cycle, wherein successful development of said technology (e.g., smart phones) increases public attention and support which in turn further accelerates support for more development.  The converse is also true.  In a “vicious cycle”, low levels of development lead to low levels of awareness which in turn inhibits flow of resources for further technological development. 

Many ocean-based pathways are trapped in this latter cycle, and hence remain critically underdeveloped. 

A few points of evidence include: 

  • The relative paucity of information about ocean-based CDR pathways relative to terrestrial and technological pathways in CarbonPlan’s CDR database.[1]“Carbonplan / Reports.” Carbonplan, carbonplan.org/reports. (as of Feb. 2021)
  • The paucity of ocean-based applications submitted to Stripe’s first round of negatives emissions purchases[2]Stripe. “Stripe/Negative-Emissions-Source-Materials.” GitHub, github.com/stripe/negative-emissions-source-materials; ocean-based submissions for the second round of purchases did increase (https://github.com/stripe/carbon-removal-source-materials/tree/master/Project%20Applications/Spring2021) and Microsoft’s first negative emissions purchase.[3]Microsoft carbon removal: Lessons from an early corporate purchase. 2021. https://query.prod.cms.rt.microsoft.com/cms/api/am/binary/RE4MDlc
  • The lack of big environmental and climate NGOs that include ocean-based CDR, or any CDR for that matter, as priorities on their climate or ocean agendas.
  • The minimal attention paid to ocean-based CDR pathways in the IPCC’s Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate[4]Bindoff, N.L., W.W.L. Cheung, J.G. Kairo, J. Arístegui, V.A. Guinder, R. Hallberg, N. Hilmi, N. Jiao, M.S. Karim, L. Levin, S. O’Donoghue, S.R. Purca Cuicapusa, B. Rinkevich, T. Suga, A. Tagliabue, and P. Williamson, 2019: Changing Ocean, Marine Ecosystems, and Dependent Communities. In: IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate [H.-O. Pörtner, D.C. Roberts, V. Masson-Delmotte, P. Zhai, M. Tignor, E. Poloczanska, K. Mintenbeck, A. Alegría, M. Nicolai, A. Okem, J. Petzold, B. Rama, N.M. Weyer (eds.)]. In press. suggests a lack of scientific awareness that further slows broader public awareness.

For some technologies, public awareness and technological readiness can exist in a virtuous cycle, wherein successful development of said technology (e.g., smart phones) increases public attention and support which in turn further accelerates support for more development.  The converse is also true.  In a “vicious cycle”, low levels of development lead to low levels of awareness which in turn inhibits flow of resources for further technological development. 

Many ocean-based pathways are trapped in this latter cycle, and hence remain critically underdeveloped. 

A few points of evidence include: 

  • The relative paucity of information about ocean-based CDR pathways relative to terrestrial and technological pathways in CarbonPlan’s CDR database.{{1}}
  • The paucity of ocean-based applications submitted to Stripe’s first round of negatives emissions purchases{{2}} and Microsoft’s first negative emissions purchase.{{3}}
  • The lack of big environmental and climate NGOs that include ocean-based CDR, or any CDR for that matter, as priorities on their climate or ocean agendas.
  • The minimal attention paid to ocean-based CDR pathways in the IPCC’s Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate{{4}} suggests a lack of scientific awareness that further slows broader public awareness.

For some technologies, public awareness and technological readiness can exist in a virtuous cycle, wherein successful development of said technology (e.g., smart phones) increases public attention and support which in turn further accelerates support for more development.  The converse is also true.  In a “vicious cycle”, low levels of development lead to low levels of awareness which in turn inhibits flow of resources for further technological development. 

Many ocean-based pathways are trapped in this latter cycle, and hence remain critically underdeveloped. 

A few points of evidence include: 

  • The relative paucity of information about ocean-based CDR pathways relative to terrestrial and technological pathways in CarbonPlan’s CDR database.{{1}}
  • The paucity of ocean-based applications submitted to Stripe’s first round of negatives emissions purchases{{2}} and Microsoft’s first negative emissions purchase.{{3}}
  • The lack of big environmental and climate NGOs that include ocean-based CDR, or any CDR for that matter, as priorities on their climate or ocean agendas.
  • The minimal attention paid to ocean-based CDR pathways in the IPCC’s Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate suggests a lack of scientific awareness that further slows broader public awareness.

For some technologies, public awareness and technological readiness can exist in a virtuous cycle, wherein successful development of said technology (e.g., smart phones) increases public attention and support which in turn further accelerates support for more development.  The converse is also true.  In a “vicious cycle”, low levels of development lead to low levels of awareness which in turn inhibits flow of resources for further technological development. 

Many ocean-based pathways are trapped in this latter cycle, and hence remain critically underdeveloped. 

A few points of evidence include: 

  • The relative paucity of information about ocean-based CDR pathways relative to terrestrial and technological pathways in CarbonPlan’s CDR database.{{1}}
  • The paucity of ocean-based applications submitted to Stripe’s first round of negatives emissions purchases{{2}} and Microsoft’s first negative emissions purchase.
  • The lack of big environmental and climate NGOs that include ocean-based CDR, or any CDR for that matter, as priorities on their climate or ocean agendas.
  • The minimal attention paid to ocean-based CDR pathways in the IPCC’s Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate suggests a lack of scientific awareness that further slows broader public awareness.

For some technologies, public awareness and technological readiness can exist in a virtuous cycle, wherein successful development of said technology (e.g., smart phones) increases public attention and support which in turn further accelerates support for more development.  The converse is also true.  In a “vicious cycle”, low levels of development lead to low levels of awareness which in turn inhibits flow of resources for further technological development. 

Many ocean-based pathways are trapped in this latter cycle, and hence remain critically underdeveloped. 

A few points of evidence include: 

  • The relative paucity of information about ocean-based CDR pathways relative to terrestrial and technological pathways in CarbonPlan’s CDR database.
  • The paucity of ocean-based applications submitted to Stripe’s first round of negatives emissions purchases and Microsoft’s first negative emissions purchase.
  • The lack of big environmental and climate NGOs that include ocean-based CDR, or any CDR for that matter, as priorities on their climate or ocean agendas.
  • The minimal attention paid to ocean-based CDR pathways in the IPCC’s Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate suggests a lack of scientific awareness that further slows broader public awareness.

The “Moral Hazard” of CDR Argument

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Another cause of the low levels of development of ocean-based CDR relates to what is referred to as the “moral hazard” of CDR itself.  

CDR, whether in the oceans or on land, has been dubbed by some as a “moral hazard” that will detract energy and attention away from the [more] important effort to reduce current and future greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors of society[1]Lawford-Smith H, Currie A. 2017 Accelerating the carbon cycle: the ethics of enhanced weathering. Biol. Lett. 13: 20160859. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2016.0859 . The fear is that some actors will use CDR as a means to reduce their net emissions, while avoiding more difficult reductions in gross greenhouse gas emissions.  

Even though the international science community now recognizes that we need both CDR and overall emission reductions to stabilize planetary warming at 1.5C above pre-industrial levels[2]IPCC, 2018: Summary for Policymakers. In: Global Warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, H.-O. Pörtner, D. Roberts, J. Skea, P.R. Shukla, A. Pirani, W. Moufouma-Okia, C. Péan, R. Pidcock, S. Connors, J.B.R. Matthews, Y. Chen, X. Zhou, M.I. Gomis, E. Lonnoy, T. Maycock, M. Tignor, and T. Waterfield (eds.)]. In Press. , understanding and stakeholder recognition of the imperative for CDR remains low, and the “moral hazard” argument is partly responsible. 

Another cause of the low levels of development of ocean-based CDR relates to what is referred to as the “moral hazard” of CDR itself.  

CDR, whether in the oceans or on land, has been dubbed by some as a “moral hazard” that will detract energy and attention away from the [more] important effort to reduce current and future greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors of society{{1}}. The fear is that some actors will use CDR as a means to reduce their net emissions, while avoiding more difficult reductions in gross greenhouse gas emissions.  

Even though the international science community now recognizes that we need both CDR and overall emission reductions to stabilize planetary warming at 1.5C above pre-industrial levels{{2}}, understanding and stakeholder recognition of the imperative for CDR remains low, and the “moral hazard” argument is partly responsible. 

Another cause of the low levels of development of ocean-based CDR relates to what is referred to as the “moral hazard” of CDR itself.  

CDR, whether in the oceans or on land, has been dubbed by some as a “moral hazard” that will detract energy and attention away from the [more] important effort to reduce current and future greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors of society{{1}}. The fear is that some actors will use CDR as a means to reduce their net emissions, while avoiding more difficult reductions in gross greenhouse gas emissions.  

Even though the international science community now recognizes that we need both CDR and overall emission reductions to stabilize planetary warming at 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, understanding and stakeholder recognition of the imperative for CDR remains low, and the “moral hazard” argument is partly responsible. 

Another cause of the low levels of development of ocean-based CDR relates to what is referred to as the “moral hazard” of CDR itself.  

CDR, whether in the oceans or on land, has been dubbed by some as a “moral hazard” that will detract energy and attention away from the [more] important effort to reduce current and future greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors of society. The fear is that some actors will use CDR as a means to reduce their net emissions, while avoiding more difficult reductions in gross greenhouse gas emissions.  

Even though the international science community now recognizes that we need both CDR and overall emission reductions to stabilize planetary warming at 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, understanding and stakeholder recognition of the imperative for CDR remains low, and the “moral hazard” argument is partly responsible. 

Low Awareness of the Ocean’s Potential for Carbon Removal

Even when CDR is viewed as a critical tool, the role of the ocean lags far behind other pathways in public understanding and acceptance.  This despite the fact that the ocean covers ~71% of the surface area of the planet, and already plays a major planetary role in cycling atmospheric and terrestrial carbon and safely storing it in the deep sea.   

Despite the ocean’s potential for efficacious and scalable carbon removal, ocean-based pathways have not been investigated with the same level of interest and rigor as land-based (e.g., afforestation), technological (e.g., direct air capture), and hybrid (e.g., bioenergy with carbon capture and storage) approaches. For example, although the U.S. National Academy of Sciences is currently (2021) developing a research strategy for ocean-based CDR, an earlier report on CDR[1]National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (in progress). A Research Strategy for Ocean Carbon Dioxide Removal and Sequestration. https://www.nationalacademies.org/our-work/a-research-strategy-for-ocean-carbon-dioxide-removal-and-sequestration pathways by the Academy largely ignored ocean-based pathways (with the exception of restoration of coastal aquatic vegetative habitats)[2]National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: https://doi.org/10.17226/25259. . 

Even when CDR is viewed as a critical tool, the role of the ocean lags far behind other pathways in public understanding and acceptance.  This despite the fact that the ocean covers ~71% of the surface area of the planet, and already plays a major planetary role in cycling atmospheric and terrestrial carbon and safely storing it in the deep sea.   

Despite the ocean’s potential for efficacious and scalable carbon removal, ocean-based pathways have not been investigated with the same level of interest and rigor as land-based (e.g., afforestation), technological (e.g., direct air capture), and hybrid (e.g., bioenergy with carbon capture and storage) approaches. For example, although the U.S. National Academy of Sciences is currently (2021) developing a research strategy for ocean-based CDR, an earlier report on CDR{{1}} pathways by the Academy largely ignored ocean-based pathways (with the exception of restoration of coastal aquatic vegetative habitats){{2}}. 

Even when CDR is viewed as a critical tool, the role of the ocean lags far behind other pathways in public understanding and acceptance.  This despite the fact that the ocean covers ~71% of the surface area of the planet, and already plays a major planetary role in cycling atmospheric and terrestrial carbon and safely storing it in the deep sea.   

Despite the ocean’s potential for efficacious and scalable carbon removal, ocean-based pathways have not been investigated with the same level of interest and rigor as land-based (e.g., afforestation), technological (e.g., direct air capture), and hybrid (e.g., bioenergy with carbon capture and storage) approaches. For example, although the U.S. National Academy of Sciences is currently (2021) developing a research strategy for ocean-based CDR, an earlier report on CDR{{1}} pathways by the Academy largely ignored ocean-based pathways (with the exception of restoration of coastal aquatic vegetative habitats){{9}}. 

Even when CDR is viewed as a critical tool, the role of the ocean lags far behind other pathways in public understanding and acceptance.  This despite the fact that the ocean covers ~71% of the surface area of the planet, and already plays a major planetary role in cycling atmospheric and terrestrial carbon and safely storing it in the deep sea.   

Despite the ocean’s potential for efficacious and scalable carbon removal, ocean-based pathways have not been investigated with the same level of interest and rigor as land-based (e.g., afforestation), technological (e.g., direct air capture), and hybrid (e.g., bioenergy with carbon capture and storage) approaches. For example, although the U.S. National Academy of Sciences is currently (2021) developing a research strategy for ocean-based CDR, an earlier report on CDR{{1}} pathways by the Academy largely ignored ocean-based pathways (with the exception of restoration of coastal aquatic vegetative habitats){{9}}. 

Even when CDR is viewed as a critical tool, the role of the ocean lags far behind other pathways in public understanding and acceptance.  This despite the fact that the ocean covers ~71% of the surface area of the planet, and already plays a major planetary role in cycling atmospheric and terrestrial carbon and safely storing it in the deep sea.   

Despite the ocean’s potential for efficacious and scalable carbon removal, ocean-based pathways have not been investigated with the same level of interest and rigor as land-based (e.g., afforestation), technological (e.g., direct air capture), and hybrid (e.g., bioenergy with carbon capture and storage) approaches. For example, although the U.S. National Academy of Sciences is currently (2021) developing a research strategy for ocean-based CDR, an earlier report on CDR pathways by the Academy largely ignored ocean-based pathways (with the exception of restoration of coastal aquatic vegetative habitats). 

Public Perceptions About Relative Environmental Risks

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The ongoing and future threats to marine ecosystems from both legacy and continuing greenhouse gas pollution are clear and urgent. They include sea level rise and unprecedented rates of warming and acidification that threaten the existence of critical ocean ecosystems, such as coral reefs and kelp forests, as well as severe alteration to marine biodiversity and ecosystem function generally[1]IPCC, 2019: Summary for Policymakers. In: IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate [H.-O. Pörtner, D.C. Roberts, V. Masson-Delmotte, P. Zhai, M. Tignor, E. Poloczanska, K. Mintenbeck, A. Alegría, M. Nicolai, A. Okem, J. Petzold, B. Rama, N.M. Weyer (eds.)]. In press. . 

While the harms posed by a warming, rising, and acidifying ocean are already clear and visible, especially for island and coastal countries, for many people the terrestrial impacts - increased wildfires, stronger hurricanes, and heatwaves and drought on land- are more visible and may make the climate crisis appear more dire on land than in the ocean.

In spite of the clear impacts of and continuing risks posed by the build-up of carbon dioxide pollution in the air and water, there seems to be more fear about the risks of taking experimental action versus the risks of inaction.  This is particularly true for ocean pathways, with a reticence as some have stated to “use the ocean to fix the climate” (which overlooks the fact that they are inextricably intertwined). 

There are concerns about unknown and unbounded environmental risks from ocean-based CDR pathways, many of which may have been born from controversies over ocean iron fertilization experiments in the 1990s and 2000s[2]Strong, A.L., J.J. Cullen, and S.W. Chisholm. 2009. Ocean fertilization: Science, policy, and commerce. Oceanography 22(3):236–261, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2009.83. [3]Strong, A., Chisholm, S., Miller, C. et al. Ocean fertilization: time to move on. Nature 461, 347–348 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1038/461347a or the ocean fertilization project by the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation off Canada[4]Tollefson, J. ‘Plankton-boosting project in Chile sparks controversy’, p. 2. Nature 545, 393–394 (25 May 2017) doi:10.1038/545393a .

The ongoing and future threats to marine ecosystems from both legacy and continuing greenhouse gas pollution are clear and urgent. They include sea level rise and unprecedented rates of warming and acidification that threaten the existence of critical ocean ecosystems, such as coral reefs and kelp forests, as well as severe alteration to marine biodiversity and ecosystem function generally{{1}}. 

While the harms posed by a warming, rising, and acidifying ocean are already clear and visible, especially for island and coastal countries, for many people the terrestrial impacts - increased wildfires, stronger hurricanes, and heatwaves and drought on land- are more visible and may make the climate crisis appear more dire on land than in the ocean.

In spite of the clear impacts of and continuing risks posed by the build-up of carbon dioxide pollution in the air and water, there seems to be more fear about the risks of taking experimental action versus the risks of inaction.  This is particularly true for ocean pathways, with a reticence as some have stated to “use the ocean to fix the climate” (which overlooks the fact that they are inextricably intertwined). 

There are concerns about unknown and unbounded environmental risks from ocean-based CDR pathways, many of which may have been born from controversies over ocean iron fertilization experiments in the 1990s and 2000s{{2}}{{3}} or the ocean fertilization project by the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation off Canada{{4}}.

The ongoing and future threats to marine ecosystems from both legacy and continuing greenhouse gas pollution are clear and urgent. They include sea level rise and unprecedented rates of warming and acidification that threaten the existence of critical ocean ecosystems, such as coral reefs and kelp forests, as well as severe alteration to marine biodiversity and ecosystem function generally{{1}}. 

While the harms posed by a warming, rising, and acidifying ocean are already clear and visible, especially for island and coastal countries, for many people the terrestrial impacts - increased wildfires, stronger hurricanes, and heatwaves and drought on land- are more visible and may make the climate crisis appear more dire on land than in the ocean.

In spite of the clear impacts of and continuing risks posed by the build-up of carbon dioxide pollution in the air and water, there seems to be more fear about the risks of taking experimental action versus the risks of inaction.  This is particularly true for ocean pathways, with a reticence as some have stated to “use the ocean to fix the climate” (which overlooks the fact that they are inextricably intertwined). 

There are concerns about unknown and unbounded environmental risks from ocean-based CDR pathways, many of which may have been born from controversies over ocean iron fertilization experiments in the 1990s and 2000s{{2}}{{3}} or the ocean fertilization project by the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation off Canada{{4}}.

The ongoing and future threats to marine ecosystems from both legacy and continuing greenhouse gas pollution are clear and urgent. They include sea level rise and unprecedented rates of warming and acidification that threaten the existence of critical ocean ecosystems, such as coral reefs and kelp forests, as well as severe alteration to marine biodiversity and ecosystem function generally. 

While the harms posed by a warming, rising, and acidifying ocean are already clear and visible, especially for island and coastal countries, for many people the terrestrial impacts - increased wildfires, stronger hurricanes, and heatwaves and drought on land- are more visible and may make the climate crisis appear more dire on land than in the ocean.

In spite of the clear impacts of and continuing risks posed by the build-up of carbon dioxide pollution in the air and water, there seems to be more fear about the risks of taking experimental action versus the risks of inaction.  This is particularly true for ocean pathways, with a reticence as some have stated to “use the ocean to fix the climate” (which overlooks the fact that they are inextricably intertwined). 

There are concerns about unknown and unbounded environmental risks from ocean-based CDR pathways, many of which may have been born from controversies over ocean iron fertilization experiments in the 1990s and 2000s, or the ocean fertilization project by the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation off Canada.  

The Precautionary Principle/”No Action Fallacy”

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The precautionary principle has often been used to manage risk when a proposed activity has the potential for causing harm, and where extensive scientific knowledge and conclusive evidence to the contrary is lacking.  Implicit in the precautionary principle is that the burden of proof falls on the proponent of the action to show that potential harm can be avoided or minimized.  

Also implicit is that potential harm can be avoided by not taking the action. However, this assumes that the condition of the system will stay constant without the action.  This is certainly not the case in the oceans; there is overwhelming scientific evidence that the ocean is on a dangerous downward trajectory as a result of too much carbon in the air and water[1]Malhi Y, Franklin J, Seddon N, Solan M, Turner MG, Field CB, Knowlton N. 2020 Climate change and ecosystems: threats, opportunities and solutions. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 375: 20190104. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2019.0104 .  

If one accepts the foundational premise that “no action” on CDR is not a credible alternative, then any ocean-based CDR action has to be compared against other CDR actions that will equally solve for the problems in the ocean driven by high levels of greenhouse gases in the air and water.  It is not credible to compare ocean-based CDR to a “no-action” alternative:  inaction is not “safe”, and a “no-action alternative” is a fallacy as a choice to safeguard marine biodiversity and ecosystems. No action leads to continuing loss of ocean health and growing threats to communities and economies. 

The precautionary principle has often been used to manage risk when a proposed activity has the potential for causing harm, and where extensive scientific knowledge and conclusive evidence to the contrary is lacking.  Implicit in the precautionary principle is that the burden of proof falls on the proponent of the action to show that potential harm can be avoided or minimized.  

Also implicit is that potential harm can be avoided by not taking the action. However, this assumes that the condition of the system will stay constant without the action.  This is certainly not the case in the oceans; there is overwhelming scientific evidence that the ocean is on a dangerous downward trajectory as a result of too much carbon in the air and water{{1}}.  

If one accepts the foundational premise that “no action” on CDR is not a credible alternative, then any ocean-based CDR action has to be compared against other CDR actions that will equally solve for the problems in the ocean driven by high levels of greenhouse gases in the air and water.  It is not credible to compare ocean-based CDR to a “no-action” alternative:  inaction is not “safe”, and a “no-action alternative” is a fallacy as a choice to safeguard marine biodiversity and ecosystems. No action leads to continuing loss of ocean health and growing threats to communities and economies. 

The precautionary principle has often been used to manage risk when a proposed activity has the potential for causing harm, and where extensive scientific knowledge and conclusive evidence to the contrary is lacking.  Implicit in the precautionary principle is that the burden of proof falls on the proponent of the action to show that potential harm can be avoided or minimized.  

Also implicit is that potential harm can be avoided by not taking the action. However, this assumes that the condition of the system will stay constant without the action.  This is certainly not the case in the oceans; there is overwhelming scientific evidence that the ocean is on a dangerous downward trajectory as a result of too much carbon in the air and water{{1}}.  

If one accepts the foundational premise that “no action” on CDR is not a credible alternative, then any ocean-based CDR action has to be compared against other CDR actions that will equally solve for the problems in the ocean driven by high levels of greenhouse gases in the air and water.  It is not credible to compare ocean-based CDR to a “no-action” alternative:  inaction is not “safe”, and a “no-action alternative” is a fallacy as a choice to safeguard marine biodiversity and ecosystems. No action leads to continuing loss of ocean health and growing threats to communities and economies. 

The precautionary principle has often been used to manage risk when a proposed activity has the potential for causing harm, and where extensive scientific knowledge and conclusive evidence to the contrary is lacking.  Implicit in the precautionary principle is that the burden of proof falls on the proponent of the action to show that potential harm can be avoided or minimized.  

Also implicit is that potential harm can be avoided by not taking the action. However, this assumes that the condition of the system will stay constant without the action.  This is certainly not the case in the oceans; there is overwhelming scientific evidence that the ocean is on a dangerous downward trajectory as a result of too much carbon in the air and water.  

If one accepts the foundational premise that “no action” on CDR is not a credible alternative, then any ocean-based CDR action has to be compared against other CDR actions that will equally solve for the problems in the ocean driven by high levels of greenhouse gases in the air and water.  It is not credible to compare ocean-based CDR to a “no-action” alternative:  inaction is not “safe”, and a “no-action alternative” is a fallacy as a choice to safeguard marine biodiversity and ecosystems. No action leads to continuing loss of ocean health and growing threats to communities and economies. 

Perceptions on Nature-Based versus Engineered Solutions

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Although ocean-based CDR technologies are nascent, there is already emerging evidence of public preference for pathways regarded as more “nature-based”, such as restoration of coastal blue carbon habitats, over “engineering-based” approaches, such as ocean alkalinity enhancement.  This appears to be due to concerns about the potential for environmental risk and unintended impacts with “engineering-based” approaches. 

This apparent bias for nature-based approaches creates to a situation where the techniques with greatest CDR potential and permanence (“engineering-based”) face greater obstacles to public acceptance than those with reduced CDR potential and permanence (“nature-based”)[1]Bertram C and Merk C (2020) Public Perceptions of Ocean-Based Carbon Dioxide Removal: The Nature-Engineering Divide? Front. Clim. 2:594194. doi: 10.3389/fclim.2020.594194 .

Although ocean-based CDR technologies are nascent, there is already emerging evidence of public preference for pathways regarded as more “nature-based”, such as restoration of coastal blue carbon habitats, over “engineering-based” approaches, such as ocean alkalinity enhancement.  This appears to be due to concerns about the potential for environmental risk and unintended impacts with “engineering-based” approaches. 

This apparent bias for nature-based approaches creates to a situation where the techniques with greatest CDR potential and permanence (“engineering-based”) face greater obstacles to public acceptance than those with reduced CDR potential and permanence (“nature-based”){{1}}.

Although ocean-based CDR technologies are nascent, there is already emerging evidence of public preference for pathways regarded as more “nature-based”, such as restoration of coastal blue carbon habitats, over “engineering-based” approaches, such as ocean alkalinity enhancement.  This appears to be due to concerns about the potential for environmental risk and unintended impacts with “engineering-based” approaches. 

This apparent bias for nature-based approaches creates to a situation where the techniques with greatest CDR potential and permanence (“engineering-based”) face greater obstacles to public acceptance than those with reduced CDR potential and permanence (“nature-based”).

Underdeveloped Regulatory and Governance Structures

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Advancing the development and testing of ocean-based CDR approaches will require governance structures that both enable the permitting of legitimate testing and development and ensure that the public interests are protected.  

Current governance-related challenges include:

  • There are no specific regimes in the US nor internationally governing ocean-based CDR[1]REMOVING CARBON DIOXIDE THROUGH OCEAN ALKALINITY ENHANCEMENT AND SEAWEED CULTIVATION: Legal Challenges and Opportunities By Romany M. Webb, Korey Silverman-Roati, and Michael B. Gerrard February 2021 - Working Draft. .
  • In many countries, there are complex regulatory mazes to navigate to gain permits for in-water experimental trials, hindering development of trials.  
  • In the US this is particularly complicated by overlapping jurisdictions and authorities in the coastal zone[2]Suatoni, Lisa. (2021) ‘Remarks at The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine: A Research Strategy for Ocean Carbon Dioxide Removal and Sequestration: Workshop Series, Part 2 ’. 27-January-2021. .

These and other governance and regulatory uncertainties present real challenges and risks to those working to conduct research and development on ocean-based CDR pathways. Lack of such regimes both inhibits experimentation and the development of public confidence in ocean-based CDR experimentation. Governance structures and regimes with a specific focus on ocean-based CDR must be developed.

These governance structures must provide consistency; transparency; work to facilitate experimentation and demonstration; minimize negative environmental impacts; and ensure that field trials are controllable in size and scope. They may also require different skill sets appropriate to specific ocean CDR pathways (i.e. different governance for macroalgal sequestration versus ocean liming)[3]Bellamy, R. Incentivize negative emissions responsibly. Nat Energy 3, 532–534 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41560-018-0156-6 .  

Advancing the development and testing of ocean-based CDR approaches will require governance structures that both enable the permitting of legitimate testing and development and ensure that the public interests are protected.  

Current governance-related challenges include:

  • There are no specific regimes in the US nor internationally governing ocean-based CDR{{1}}.
  • In many countries, there are complex regulatory mazes to navigate to gain permits for in-water experimental trials, hindering development of trials.  
  • In the US this is particularly complicated by overlapping jurisdictions and authorities in the coastal zone{{2}}.

These and other governance and regulatory uncertainties present real challenges and risks to those working to conduct research and development on ocean-based CDR pathways. Lack of such regimes both inhibits experimentation and the development of public confidence in ocean-based CDR experimentation. Governance structures and regimes with a specific focus on ocean-based CDR must be developed.

These governance structures must provide consistency; transparency; work to facilitate experimentation and demonstration; minimize negative environmental impacts; and ensure that field trials are controllable in size and scope. They may also require different skill sets appropriate to specific ocean CDR pathways (i.e. different governance for macroalgal sequestration versus ocean liming){{3}}.  

Advancing the development and testing of ocean-based CDR approaches will require governance structures that both enable the permitting of legitimate testing and development and ensure that the public interests are protected.  

Current governance-related challenges include:

  • There are no specific regimes in the US nor internationally governing ocean-based CDR{{1}}.
  • In many countries, there are complex regulatory mazes to navigate to gain permits for in-water experimental trials, hindering development of trials.  
  • In the US this is particularly complicated by overlapping jurisdictions and authorities in the coastal zone.

These and other governance and regulatory uncertainties present real challenges and risks to those working to conduct research and development on ocean-based CDR pathways. Lack of such regimes both inhibits experimentation and the development of public confidence in ocean-based CDR experimentation. Governance structures and regimes with a specific focus on ocean-based CDR must be developed.

These governance structures must provide consistency; transparency; work to facilitate experimentation and demonstration; minimize negative environmental impacts; and ensure that field trials are controllable in size and scope. They may also require different skill sets appropriate to specific ocean CDR pathways (i.e. different governance for macroalgal sequestration versus ocean liming).  

Advancing the development and testing of ocean-based CDR approaches will require governance structures that both enable the permitting of legitimate testing and development and ensure that the public interests are protected.  

Current governance-related challenges include:

  • There are no specific regimes in the US nor internationally governing ocean-based CDR.
  • In many countries, there are complex regulatory mazes to navigate to gain permits for in-water experimental trials, hindering development of trials.  
  • In the US this is particularly complicated by overlapping jurisdictions and authorities in the coastal zone.

These and other governance and regulatory uncertainties present real challenges and risks to those working to conduct research and development on ocean-based CDR pathways. Lack of such regimes both inhibits experimentation and the development of public confidence in ocean-based CDR experimentation. Governance structures and regimes with a specific focus on ocean-based CDR must be developed.

These governance structures must provide consistency; transparency; work to facilitate experimentation and demonstration; minimize negative environmental impacts; and ensure that field trials are controllable in size and scope. They may also require different skill sets appropriate to specific ocean CDR pathways (i.e. different governance for macroalgal sequestration versus ocean liming).  

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