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Home » PT 2 Brad Ack – Executive Director, Ocean Visions – removing carbon at scale

PT 2 Brad Ack – Executive Director, Ocean Visions – removing carbon at scale

Nick Breeze

Nick Breeze

Climate journalist and host of the ClimateGenn podcast.

Ocean visions is a collaborative partnership of research and scientific institutions, with practitioners and marine managers that looks for solutions to critical problems facing the ocean. And there’s no problem more critical and dangerous than the impacts caused by too much carbon in the atmosphere. 

Brad Act, Exec Director, Ocean Visions at COP27

The 2 trillion tonnes of CO2 that we’ve put into the atmosphere since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, are heating and acidifying the ocean. These are the two largest threats to the health of the ocean over time. And so working on things like carbon dioxide removal is not only good for the climate, and not only imperative for the climate, but also for the health of the ocean itself. 

So essentially, we’re looking at whether the ocean can play a role in healing itself and healing the climate. Shaun mentioned we have to have removal. The IPCC, scientific body for the UNFFFC, has said that every scenario to get to 1.5 degrees includes pretty significant amounts of removal between 100 and 1000 Giga tons of carbon, a gigaton is a billion tons, so 100-200 billion tons to a trillion tons of carbon have to come back out of the atmosphere over the next 70 years to have any hope of getting to 1.5ºC. 

How are we going to do it? The ocean holds about 50 times more carbon in the deep than what’s in the atmosphere now. The ocean cycles most of the planet’s free carbon. If we were to disappear tomorrow, the ocean would over the next 100,000, 200,000 years would recycle all this carbon pollution we have created. We don’t have that kind of time, so we look at how can we accelerate, enhance and mimic ocean pathways for carbon removal. There are a few big categories: giant kelp, macroalgae, rapid photo synthesizer, which doesn’t require land or fertilizer, captures carbon, and many ways that you can store that carbon. 

Microalgae, also a rapid photo synthesizer that has unlimited potential to be able to move carbon and already does move a massive amount of carbon in the system. To more engineering methods: alkalinity enhancement, adding alkalinity to ocean water to restore the pH that’s been lowered by acidification, also has a knock-on effect of removing carbon. 

Direct ocean capture, which is essentially like direct air capture but capturing carbon out of seawater itself. And then lastly, what everybody is aware of and knows about as blue carbon ecosystems. Those are the big five domains of ocean based carbon removal. We’re trying to accelerate research with partners like Cambridge on all five of those areas. And within each five, there are many technology pathways, we need much greater urgency to this effort. 

Here we are at COP, and nobody in the negotiation room is talking about how countries are going to deliver that 100 to 1000 gigatons of carbon. 

They’re not talking about it, even though it’s in the science. It’s not on the agenda. So we need to all collectively get it on the agenda. There are only two ways to solve this problem. We need both of them to reduce and remove, and we’re falling far short on removal. If you want to learn more about some of these technology pathways, please visit oceanvisions.org/roadmaps and you will find a wealth of information there about all of the different research efforts underway and how you can get involved and help. Thank you!

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