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Ocean Carbon Sequestration – update

October 13, 2009

The worlds oceans naturally sequester huge quantities of carbon through absorbtion and, as such are a critical part of the global carbon balance.  There are organisations currently undertaking research to explore the science and commercial applications of enhancing the sequestration of carbon.  The two main approaches are seeding with iron filings, and seeding with urea.  One such organisation, Ocean Nourishment Corporation, based in Sydney, has been pioneering work with urea. 

This approach may give rise to prospects for inclusion of ocean carbon sequestration activities as a recognised greenhouse gas emissions abatement activity, thus eligible potentially for carbon credits.  In addition, it is proposed that they propagation of phytoplankton will contribute to enhancing ocean productivity, thus also food security.

In this post, Ocean Nourishment Managing Director John Ridley contributes some recent updates.

Royal Society Report on Geoengineering Issued

In September the Royal Society issued the report “Geoengineering the climate: science, governance and uncertainty“.  This rep0rt was the result of many months of effort by a team of experts in the various fields.  It pointed out that none of the emission reduction scenarios that have been realistically discussed will lead to an adequate containment of levels of greenhouse gases.  In this context geoengineering may be used to mitigate the effect of some of the greenhouse gas emissions.  Because all proposed methods of geoengineering are novel applications of technology, there is a need to obtain more information before committing to their implementation.  The Royal Society called for a substantial increase in funding of the various geoengineering options.

The Royal Society divided the technologies into two types, those that remove carbon dioxide and those that manage solar radiation.  The Royal Society prefers those technologies that remove carbon dioxide.  Ocean fertilization is one of the technologies that remove carbon dioxide.

UNEP to issue report on role of ocean in carbon cycle

In addition, the UNEP Blue Carbon Report, to be issued on 14 October, highlights the imporance of healthy oceans and directly addresses the issue that the world’s oceans are daily absorbing and removing large quantities of carbon from the atmosphere, with commentary on how to enhance oceanic carbon capture and storage.  The report makes the point that the oceans are a crucial natural ally in strategies to combat climate change.

The report illustrates how the ocean’s carbon capture and storage systems are being undermined by human activity, thereby harming their ability to sequester carbon dioxide.

It addresses the potential to conserve and enhance the maring environment’s carbon capture and storage services (CCS).  It contrasts this method of CCS, based on natural systems, with the expensive proposals for CCS at power stations.  The Blue Carbon Report has been prepared in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Oceans Included in Latest Negotiating Text

Marine and coastal ecosystems are now well represented in the latest negotiating text at the UNFCCC.  This is based on the role of oceans in climate mitigation and addressing the impact of climate on marine ecosystems.  The introduction of REDD (reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) initiatives in the text is a possible precurson to wider adoption of natural emission reductions and hence sink enhancement.

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