Using the Oceans To Store CO2 Could Help Avoid Climate Catastrophe

The experimental process of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in oceans could help limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, explain Romany Webb and Michael B. Gerrard, both of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School. Overcoming challenges presented by this treatment will need coordination with all stakeholders, including research scientists, investors, and environmental groups, they say. An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg Law: At last month's climate conference in Glasgow, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres declared that the global goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius was still alive, but "on life support." Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) -- the process of drawing carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and storing it on land or in the oceans -- could be part of the medicine needed to bring it back to life. But, like all experimental treatments, its use presents a range of challenges. Overcoming them will require a coordinated effort by a wide range of stakeholders, from research scientists and investors to policymakers and lawyers to environmental and community groups. So far, no CDR techniques have been deployed at a large scale, and many require significantly more research before that can happen. A new report from the National Academies of Sciences identifies over $1 billion worth of "priority research" that will be needed over the next 10 years to better assess the feasibility and impacts of key ocean CDR techniques. That includes $125 million for so-called "foundational research" on legal, policy, social science, and related issues. [...] On the legal side, there is significant uncertainty as to how different CDR techniques, particularly ocean-based techniques, will be regulated. Because the oceans form part of the global commons, ocean-based activities are subject to a large body of international law. But there is currently no comprehensive international legal framework specific to ocean CDR. There are no U.S. federal laws dealing specifically with ocean CDR. Unless and until that changes, projects will end up being regulated under general environmental laws that were developed with other activities in mind, and so may be poorly suited to ocean CDR. We've documented some of the potential problems in two recent reports on the laws governing ocean alkalinization and seaweed cultivation for the purposes of CDR. As recognized in the National Academies report, developing a "clear and consistent legal framework for ocean CDR is essential to facilitate research and (if deemed appropriate) full-scale deployment, while also ensuring that projects are conducted in a safe and environmentally sound manner."It is vital that framework be developed with input from all stakeholders -- scientists, entrepreneurs, governments, NGOs, environmentalists, indigenous peoples, coastal communities, and other potentially impacted groups. Those same groups must continue to be engaged as projects are developed and deployed. [...] Further engagement and coordination with the full range of stakeholders are important to ensure safe and responsible CDR development and deployment. Without that, our hopes of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius may well be dead and buried.

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