A critical analysis of the ocean effects of carbon dioxide removal via direct air and ocean capture – is it a safe and sustainable solution?

Executive Summary

Catalyzed by the 2015 Paris Agreement, there are numerous initiatives for policies and sciencebased solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to achieve net-zero emissions internationally. President Biden plans to achieve net-zero in the United States no later than 2050. Despite forward-moving initiatives, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently reported that two-thirds of the countries that have pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have committed to levels that remain insufficient in meeting vital international climate targets [1]. The overarching goal to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions must be accomplished by transitioning to a more equitable and environmentally just energy system that reduces pollution while meeting global food, transportation, and energy needs. Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) is at the forefront of policy change, investments, and technology to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and the ocean. We must respond quickly, yet carefully, to the considerable pressure to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere even as we transition away from burning fossil fuels and other anthropogenic CO2-emitting activities. There are a number of emerging technologies based on direct air capture (DAC) and direct ocean capture (DOC) which use machines to extract CO2 directly from the atmosphere or the ocean and move the CO2 underground to storage facilities or utilize the CO2 to enhance oil recovery from commercially-depleted wells. These technological interventions are in contrast to nature-based solutions. These include restoring mangroves and other coastal and marine ecosystems, regenerative agriculture, and reforestation to remove and store carbon dioxide in plants and soils. These nature-based strategies can offer multiple community benefits, biodiversity benefits, and long-term carbon storage, a global benefit.2 This report mainly focuses on the viability and consequences, including potential harm to the environment and livelihoods of the direct air capture and direct ocean capture approaches.

Meyer A. M. & Spalding M. J., 2021. A critical analysis of the ocean effects of carbon dioxide removal via direct air and ocean capture – is it a safe and sustainable solution? The Ocean Foundation. Report

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