Removing Carbon Dioxide Through Ocean Alkalinity Enhancement and Seaweed Cultivation: Legal Challenges and Opportunities
Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Columbia Law School
55 Pages Posted: 10 Mar 2021
Date Written: February 1, 2021
Scientists increasingly agree that carbon dioxide removal will be needed, alongside deep emissions cuts, to stave off the worst impacts of climate change. A wide variety of technologies and strategies have been proposed to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. To date, most research has focused on terrestrial-based approaches, but they often have large land requirements, and may present other risks and challenges. As such, there is growing interest in using the oceans, which have already absorbed more than a quarter of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, and could become an even larger carbon sink in the future.
This paper examines the international and U.S. legal frameworks applicable to two ocean-based carbon dioxide removal strategies—ocean alkalinity enhancement and seaweed cultivation. Ocean alkalinity enhancement involves adding alkalinity to ocean waters, either by discharging alkaline rocks or through an electrochemical process, which increases ocean pH levels and thereby enables greater uptake of carbon dioxide, as well as reducing the adverse impacts of ocean acidification. Seaweed cultivation involves the growing of kelp and other macroalgae to store carbon in biomass, which can then either be used to replace more greenhouse gas-intensive products or sequestered.
Keywords: climate change, ocean alkalinity enhancement, seaweed cultivation, carbon removal, UNCLOS, London Convention, London Protocol
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