With mitigation so far not showing signs of denting the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, and Earth’s sensitivity to the current levels being greater than previously anticipated, attention is shifting towards safe methods for carbon drawdown that include stimulating the earth’s natural sinks like the oceans.
In this session at COP27, four speakers from different organisations make the case for developing and upscaling research into ocean ecosystem restoration.
Dr Shaun Fitzgerald OBE, Director, Centre for Climate Repair, Cambridge, UK
The Center for Climate repair at the University of Cambridge has been set up for about two years now. And its purpose is indeed to look at how we might tackle climate change in an active way of repairing the climate. And our strategy is based on what we call the three R’s.
The first one is the most obvious, which is that we need to reduce emissions as rapidly as we can, and as effectively as we can, with a just purpose for all societies. However, we know that we are not going to be able to have a planet that’s going to be habitable in the way that we are currently living if we just do reduction of emissions.
Our second R is the Removal of greenhouse gases at scale. And our third R is tackling the issue of the timescale by which we’re going to fix our climate on reducing and removing emissions, and looking at ways we might need to reflect the radiation from the sun and refreeze the Arctic.
Today’s conversation, and the purpose of the session today, is about removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, and in particular, the role of the oceans. The reason why we are looking at that within Cambridge is that we think that the largest opportunity that is underserved from a research purpose is indeed the role of the oceans.
So the two projects that we are looking at, from a research perspective at the moment within Cambridge are, firstly, the potential role of giant kelp, not just giant kelp in the coastal waters but giant kelp in the surface waters of the deep ocean. It poses lots of opportunities, it poses lots of questions, and some risks as well, we don’t really know what’s going to happen when the giant kelp grows, and some of it gets into the deep ocean.
We have to undertake research into this area from not just modeling and data analysis but also looking at experiments that are going to be needed to confirm the predictions from the modeling.
The second area is looking at what actually we might do to regenerate the oceans. Our project is called Marine Biomass Regeneration. And we’re looking at how we might be able to regenerate oceans, for example, the role of whales and questioning what role they had previously, in bringing nutrients from depth to the surface through their own bodily functions feeding at depth and defecating at the surface. We’ve lost all of the whales in some species, they’re less than 1% in other cases.
Therefore we need to undertake research urgently in order to figure out how we might get those populations back and have the ocean regenerated and fulfilling its function, not just for the ocean and ecosystems but fulfilling its function as a carbon sequestration sink that it used to be and that we don’t currently have.