• Thu. Oct 5th, 2023

The Science We Have to have to Assess Marine Carbon Dioxide Removal


Jun 1, 2023
The Science We Need to Assess Marine Carbon Dioxide Removal

The window to limit worldwide warming to Paris Agreement targets by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions alone is quickly closing. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Adjust [Pörtner et al., 2022], to have a 50% opportunity of maintaining warming under 1.5°C, the entire of society will want to limit all future carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to much less than a handful of hundred billion tons. With worldwide emissions of CO2 in 2021 totaling 36 billion tons [Friedlingstein et al., 2022], this limit implies a want to halve emissions inside a decade, on our way to eliminating almost all emissions by midcentury.

This is a formidable challenge that becomes tougher to overcome with every passing month. As a result, quite a few scientists, policymakers, entrepreneurs, and other folks have begun grappling with the reality that staving off intergenerational harms of climate change—from increasingly intense heat waves to a lot more extreme droughts and floods to increasing dangers from wildfire and tropical cyclones—will also call for removing legacy CO2 from the atmosphere.

Various carbon removal techniques are now becoming deployed on land, such as creating power with biological material and capturing and storing the CO2 created (i.e., bioenergy with carbon capture and storage), planting a lot more forests, or drawing huge amounts of air via absorbent filters. Simply because the ocean covers 71% of Earth’s surface and, apart from the atmosphere, currently serves as the biggest net sink for anthropogenic CO2 emissions [Friedlingstein et al., 2022], different ocean-primarily based, or marine, CO2 removal (mCDR) tactics are becoming proposed (Figure 1).

Several proposed marine carbon dioxide removal methods illustrated on a cross section of an oceanFig. 1. Numerous tactics for removing carbon dioxide from seawater and sequestering it for extended periods of time have been proposed, every with its personal considerations, complications, and possible durabilities. Credit: Mary Heinrichs/AGU

Quantifying the effectiveness and durability of marine carbon dioxide removal (mCDR) processes calls for robust science for monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV).

3 categories of mCDR approaches—ocean iron fertilization, artificial upwelling, and seaweed cultivation—aim to stimulate principal productivity at the ocean’s surface with the expectation that some of the extra biomass created will sink into and stay in the deep ocean. In contrast, ocean alkalinity enhancement (OAE) requires intentionally dispersing alkaline components such as lime on the ocean’s surface to shift the chemical equilibrium of the seawater carbon method and thereby enhance uptake of atmospheric CO2. Nevertheless one more method proposes to get rid of CO2 straight from seawater through electrochemical reactions and then shop it underground.

Industrial, philanthropic, and government sources are increasingly becoming directed toward the improvement of these mCDR tactics, with many pilot deployments planned. But how efficient could these pathways be at growing ocean carbon uptake? Crucial to any carbon dioxide removal (CDR) strategy is that it will have to durably shop billions of tons of CO2 in locations exactly where it can not simply return to the atmosphere. Quantifying the effectiveness and durability of these processes in the ocean calls for robust science for monitoring, reporting, and verification.

Have to have for Requirements and Transparency

Monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) refers to the multistep approach of monitoring the quantity of greenhouse gas removed by a CDR activity more than a period of time and reporting the outcomes of the monitoring to a third celebration. The third celebration then verifies the reporting so the outcomes can be certified. MRV is normally pursued so that a industrial entity can seek payment for removal activities in quickly developing voluntary carbon credit markets or in smaller sized, regulated compliance markets established beneath precise governance structures.

At least half a dozen businesses involved in mCDR, and a lot more that are quickly getting into the space, are beginning to marketplace CO2 removal solutions to possible purchasers interested in getting credits to offset carbon emissions. To assistance verification of these solutions, there is an urgent want for techniques that rigorously quantify net carbon removal prices and storage durability of various mCDR approaches.

Terrestrial CDR has offered rise to quite a few certifications, along with a lot more than two dozen requirements-establishing organizations, however this abundance has not regularly translated to higher-top quality CDR [Arcusa and Sprenkle-Hyppolite, 2022]. Right here, “high-quality” refers to carbon removal that is each extra, which means it would not have occurred devoid of the intervention, and tough, which means it is removed from the atmosphere for centuries to millennia.

There are presently practically no MRV requirements for mCDR. This vacuum opens an chance for oceanographic researchers to create required frameworks.

Maybe the most consideration-grabbing instance of attempted terrestrial CDR has been the use of afforestation, specifically considering the fact that the Globe Financial Forum started advertising its 1-trillion-tree project in 2020. In spite of the consideration, MRV protocols for afforestation efforts lack standardization and can fail when compared with independent verification techniques [Marino et al., 2019].

Forest MRV protocols normally rely on satellite monitoring supplemented by field-primarily based tree inventory assessments to estimate alterations in forest biomass. Basic models are then utilised to convert biomass alterations into carbon storage inventories. To evaluate additionality, this carbon storage is compared to a hypothetical baseline representing the assumed trajectory of the method in the absence of intervention. But uptake of CO2 by an afforested area is not usually measured. In the handful of situations exactly where uptake has been measured straight, these analyses have revealed quantitative inconsistencies [Marino et al., 2019]. Assessing durability is complex by the difficulty of predicting wildfires and plant illnesses, which can quickly release sequestered carbon to the atmosphere [Joppa et al., 2021].

With all the various approaches and organizations involved, the terrestrial CDR landscape has grown into a tangled internet of competing protocols that lack standardization and transparency. In contrast, there are presently practically no MRV requirements for mCDR. We argue that this vacuum opens an chance for oceanographic researchers to create required frameworks for MRV practices with higher integrity, applying lessons from each profitable and problematic protocols created in the terrestrial CDR atmosphere [Bach et al., 2023].

Inventing Applied Ocean Biogeochemistry

Lots of oceanographers have been reluctant to do mCDR investigation. They cite different fears, like that undertaking so will shift public and private investment away from urgently required emissions reductions and push ocean scientists away from fundamental investigation. Nevertheless, staying on the sidelines as mCDR businesses commence to sell carbon credits in largely unregulated marketplaces signifies that the business will move forward in the absence of significantly-required knowledge.

For mCDR tactics to either develop into viable and quantifiable climate mitigation tools or be dispensed with simply because investigation reveals they are ineffective, ocean scientists will have to step up to collaborate and codevelop MRV frameworks. In so undertaking, there is nevertheless space to pursue new, basic science and train the subsequent generation of scientists in the emerging field of applied ocean biogeochemistry.

Proof that some scientists are beginning to take on a lot more active roles was abundant at a September 2022 workshop on mCDR that was sponsored by the Ocean Carbon &amp Biogeochemistry Project Workplace with assistance from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and NASA and held at the University of Rhode Island. Extra than 150 ocean scientists gathered—in individual and virtually—with business, nonprofit, and government agency stakeholders to discover essential needs and challenges of establishing MRV frameworks for many broadly viewed as mCDR techniques [National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2022].

The facts of any MRV framework rely on which mCDR approach is becoming tested.

1 point of agreement was that the facts of any MRV framework rely on which mCDR approach is becoming tested. MRV for any of the techniques intended to enhance principal productivity would call for assessments of the extra biomass produced by the intervention, the fraction of that biomass exported to the deep ocean, and the timescale that its carbon would keep in the ocean interior devoid of becoming mixed back to the surface exactly where it could be released to the atmosphere.

Furthermore, it would be crucial to assess regardless of whether the consumption of nutrients (e.g., nitrate, phosphate) to stimulate extra productivity would bring about decreased productivity elsewhere, and regardless of whether extra oxygen consumed in the ocean interior via the respiration of the added carbon in the end would lead to extra production of other greenhouse gases, such as nitrous oxide or methane, due to enhanced anaerobic respiration. Each decreased productivity in other places and elevated production of other greenhouse gases could partially or completely negate the advantages of these mCDR approaches.

MRV for OAE, meanwhile, would want to assure that an intervention does in truth elevate seawater alkalinity and that the alkalinity-enhanced waters stay at the surface extended sufficient to absorb extra atmospheric CO2. In contrast to the biologically mediated mCDR techniques that rely on organic carbon remaining for centuries in the deep ocean, OAE increases the ocean’s buffering capacity, comparable to the all-natural approach of rock weathering, and the connected CO2 uptake is probably to be tough on millennial timescales [Hartmann et al., 2023].

It is Time to Engage

The nascent mCDR business demands suggestions and baselines to confirm regardless of whether their techniques can operate and hence have worth in the marketplace.

The most emphatic point of agreement amongst workshop participants is that we now are inside a fleeting window of chance to fill the MRV void for mCDR. Acting now could protect against inadequate or opaque protocols from becoming accepted defaults. Equally significant, the nascent mCDR business demands suggestions and baselines to confirm regardless of whether their techniques can operate and hence have worth in the marketplace. Lacking such groundwork, the business could fail to launch, eliminating or delaying promising carbon removal pathways. Or sources could be wasted via prolonged investments in tactics with small likelihood of functioning at scale.

Oceanography blends understanding from physics, biology, geology, and chemistry, and oceanographers use observations, laboratory analyses, and numerical models to generate holistic understanding. Now is the time for these scientists to apply their knowledge to establish finest practices for the promptly developing mCDR neighborhood.

Academic investigation into mCDR will have to accelerate and be transdisciplinary, though keeping rigor and fulfilling commitments to equity and transparency. A optimistic sign for the required acceleration is that funding agencies, such as the National Oceanographic Partnership System and the U.S. Division of Power, are establishing applications for mCDR and MRV, and new sources of funding from philanthropy, venture capital firms, and private business are also developing swiftly.

Participants at the current workshop rallied about many suggestions. 1 is that field trials following detailed protocols are required to prove the efficacy and security of mCDR techniques. These protocols really should be codesigned by professional teams, like private-enterprise engineers along with impartial scientists, with regulatory bodies taking duty as understanding matures. It is attainable that coastal and island communities could be impacted by mCDR—for instance, by means of the create-out of macroalgal farms and connected ship website traffic. So as aspect of the codesign work, scientists really should also companion with these communities to create tools of MRV to protect against environmental degradation and fraud, and to assure that the communities share in the advantages of mCDR actions.

An additional recommendation, to additional market equity and transparency, is that information connected with MRV really should be publicly out there, accessible, and top quality-assured. Ideally, a centralized registry of MRV protocols and outcomes from field trials really should be produced and indexed for straightforward reference, which may well call for surmounting challenges associated to intellectual house.

Ocean models will be vital tools in MRV, simply because quite a few mCDR approaches will generate alterations that are really hard, if not not possible, to observe straight in the vast, variable, and turbulent ocean. Nevertheless, ocean models historically have not been constructed for this objective. Adapting model simulations and associated evaluation tools to offer probabilistic quantifications of carbon removal with robust uncertainty budgets calls for focused improvement aligned with that target.

There is clearly a lot of operate to be accomplished to evaluate mCDR approaches and bring required, internationally recognized MRV protocols to fruition. Thinking of the stakes, there is also a palpable urgency to do so. We urge the ocean sciences neighborhood to engage deeply in this operate, regardless of whether by collecting and sharing relevant experimental or modeling information teaching about mCDR approaches giving professional testimonials to journals, funding agencies, or private enterprises contributing to finest practices documents or other signifies. With a sustained neighborhood work, we can assure that robust frameworks for verifying the effectiveness and security of mCDR are created in strategies that advance the basic target of assisting mitigate the harms of a warming climate.


Lennart Bach, Heather Benway, and Mairead Maheigan had been all vital to the workshop organization and to the writing and revision of this write-up but could not be integrated as authors simply because of Eos’s author limit. We also gratefully acknowledge organizational operate by Mary Zawoysky and by the University of Rhode Island Graduate College of Oceanography’s facilities group. The mCDR workshop was convened by the Ocean Carbon &amp Biogeochemistry Project Workplace (us-ocb.org), which receives assistance from NSF (NSF OCE-1850983) and NASA (NASA 80NSSC21K0413).


Arcusa, S., and S. Sprenkle-Hyppolite (2022), Snapshot of the carbon dioxide removal certification and requirements ecosystem (2021–2022), Clim. Policy, 22(9–10), 1,319–1,332, https://doi.org/ten.1080/14693062.2022.2094308.

Bach, L. T., et al. (2023), Toward a consensus framework to evaluate air-sea CO2 equilibration for marine CO2 removal, Limnol. Oceanogr. Lett., https://doi.org/ten.1002/lol2.10330.

Friedlingstein, P., et al. (2022), Worldwide carbon spending budget 2022, Earth Syst. Sci. Information, 14(11), four,811–4,900, https://doi.org/ten.5194/essd-14-4811-2022.

Hartmann, J., et al. (2023), Stability of alkalinity in ocean alkalinity enhancement (OAE) approaches—Consequences for durability of CO2 storage, Biogeosciences, 20, 781–802, https://doi.org/ten.5194/bg-20-781-2023.

Joppa, L., et al. (2021), Microsoft’s million-tonne CO2-removal purchase—Lessons for net zero, Nature, 597(7878), 629–632, https://doi.org/ten.1038/d41586-021-02606-three.

Marino, B. D. V., M. Mincheva, and A. Doucett (2019), California Air Sources Board forest carbon protocol invalidates offsets, PeerJ, 7, e7606, https://doi.org/ten.7717/peerj.7606.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (2022), A Study Approach for Ocean-Primarily based Carbon Dioxide Removal and Sequestration, 322 pp., Natl. Acad. Press, Washington, D.C., https://doi.org/ten.17226/26278.

Pörtner, H.-O., et al. (Eds.) (2022), Technical summary, in Climate Adjust 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability—Contribution of Operating Group II to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Adjust, pp. 37–118, Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, U.K., https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg2/chapter/technical-summary/.

Author Details

Jaime B. Palter (jpalter@uri.edu), Graduate College of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, Narragansett Jessica Cross, NOAA Pacific Marine Atmosphere Laboratory, Seattle Matthew C. Extended, National Center for Atmospheric Study, Boulder, Colo. Patrick A. Rafter, University of California, Irvine and Clare E. Reimers, College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis

Citation: Palter, J. B., J. Cross, M. C. Extended, P. A. Rafter, and C. E. Reimers (2023), The science we want to assess marine carbon dioxide removal, Eos, 104, https://doi.org/ten.1029/2023EO230214. Published on 1 June 2023.
This write-up does not represent the opinion of AGU, Eos, or any of its affiliates. It is solely the opinion of the author(s).
Text © 2023. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND three.
Except exactly where otherwise noted, pictures are topic to copyright. Any reuse devoid of express permission from the copyright owner is prohibited.

Leave a Reply