New Study Questions Effectiveness Of Ocean-Based Carbon Removal Methods

New Study Questions Effectiveness Of Ocean-Based Carbon Removal Methods - Carbon Herald

Limited knowledge of ocean processes is hindering the progress of marine carbon dioxide removal (CDR), making the commercialization of some methods premature and misguided, according to scientists from several prominent institutions, including the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies.

In a paper published in Environmental Research Letters, the researchers review the climatic effectiveness of four nature-based techniques: shellfish cultivation, seaweed farming, coastal blue carbon restoration (including seagrass, saltmarsh, and mangrove forests), and increasing whale populations through ‘rewilding’.

They conclude that while these activities offer significant non-climatic benefits, they cannot provide substantial contributions to CDR and may be ‘dead ends’ for meaningful climate mitigation.

To limit global warming to less than 2°C, both emissions reductions and CDR are essential, UEA said in a statement announcing the publication of the paper “Limited understanding of basic ocean processes is hindering progress in marine carbon dioxide removal.”

Various approaches have been proposed to achieve billion-ton annual CO2 removal rates within the next 30-50 years, requiring massive upscaling of multiple techniques.

However, the study argues that ocean-based CDR methods are often proposed without sufficient scientific validation, attracting undue interest as land-based constraints become evident.

Relevant: 200+ Scientists Call For Accelerated Ocean Carbon Removal Research

The authors caution that proponents, including private sector advocates, may not fully understand the ocean carbon cycle or the extensive upscaling required to achieve significant climatic benefits.

The study highlights that upscaling could trigger other ocean processes that negate the effectiveness of these CDR approaches.

Furthermore, the researchers emphasize the importance of understanding ecosystem functioning and the ocean carbon cycle, noting that many processes return CO2 to the atmosphere, complicating reliable carbon storage.

According to lead author Prof. Philip Boyd from the University of Tasmania, the non-climatic benefits of these actions may exceed their minimal contributions to CDR.

These nature-based approaches may represent greenwashing rather than being effective climate solutions, co-author Dr. Phil Williamson of UEA warns.

Based on the findings, the authors express concern over ‘opportunity costs,’ suggesting resources could be better spent on emission reductions and more promising CDR methods.

Therefore, the paper calls for better communication of CDR viability criteria, advocating for research and development (R&D) funding prioritization based on safety, durability, verifiability, and scalability.

Read more: MIT Researchers Present Novel Solution To Capture Carbon From Oceans

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