Climate Change and the Oceans

Climate Change and the Oceans

Gauging the Legal and Policy Currents in the Asia Pacific and Beyond

Edited by Robin Warner and Clive Schofield

Climate Change and the Oceans investigates the effects of climate change on the ocean environment and its implications for maritime activities, both globally and within the Asia Pacific region.

Chapter 10: Climate change mitigation activities in the ocean: turning up the regulatory heat

Rosemary Rayfuse and Robin Warner

Subjects: environment, climate change, environmental law, environmental sociology, law - academic, environmental law, maritime law


The adverse impacts of anthropogenically induced climate change on the terrestrial and marine environments have been acknowledged by a succession of expert reports commissioned by global and national bodies (IPCC 2007; Preston and Jones 2006; Stern et al. 2006). The threats posed by climate change to the global environment have fostered heightened scientific and commercial interest in a range of CO2 sequestration methods that either involve the ocean or affect the marine environment. The most developed proposals to date relate to off shore carbon capture and storage (OCCS), which seeks to capture carbon dioxide from point sources of emissions and sequester it in sub-seabed geological formations. Considerable financial and technological investment has already been made in this approach, and a regulatory framework has been developed for its implementation both at the global and at the national level in Australia. Other methods seek to boost the capacity of the oceans to capture and absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide either through the deposit of substances or wastes into the ocean, or through the deposit of structures or devices into the ocean, to increase the production of organic material in the surface ocean and thereby promote increased draw down of photosynthesized carbon to the deep ocean. Proposals for these geo-engineering schemes include seabed deposition of biochar, increasing ocean alkalinity, increasing carbon concentrations in down-welling water, and using wave activated pumps to alter water circulation (Scientific Group of the London Protocol 2010). Most advanced are proposals for ocean fertilization, involving the deposition of iron, nitrogen or phosphorous compounds into the water column to stimulate primary productivity and increase carbon-flux to the deep ocean.

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