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Scientists from the Puget Sound Restoration Fund hold kelp that naturally grew on a buoy Scientists from the Puget Sound Restoration Fund hold kelp that naturally grew on a buoy line in Washington state’s Hood Canal, part of an experiment on whether a seaweed farm can help combat ocean acidification, April 8, 2016 (AP Photo by Manuel Valdes).

Ocean-Based Carbon Removal Deserves a Closer Look

Monday, Dec. 20, 2021

Could the oceans—where life once evolved—help save the planet and humanity from climate catastrophe? A new report suggests they might. Released on Dec. 8 by the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, or NASEM, the study explores tantalizing possibilities for drawing carbon out of the atmosphere and sequestering it in the oceans through a mix of nature-based solutions and technological innovations. Getting these climate interventions to scale will of course be a significant challenge. But another challenge may be just as difficult to solve: reconciling these solutions with international law and state obligations.

Notwithstanding incremental progress at last month’s United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, the world is poised to warm to 2.7 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels by the end of the 21st century, with destabilizing environmental, economic and societal implications. Humanity will need a broad portfolio of strategies to manage and reduce climate risk, based on at least four pillars: aggressive emissions reductions, adaptation to build resilience, carbon dioxide removal and—although it remains controversial—possibly solar climate intervention. Unfortunately, the pace of emissions reduction is lagging, while adaptation strategies are essentially palliative. Agreement on solar climate intervention, meanwhile, remains elusive. That leaves carbon dioxide removal, or CDR, which encompasses a broad array of techniques that capture and store carbon. ...

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