How Do The Oceans Tackle Climate Change?

by | May 19, 2023 | Climate Change

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The potential of our oceans to tackle climate change necessitates a diverse approach. We must decrease greenhouse gas emissions swiftly and drastically through an equitable shift to a renewable-energy-driven economy. We need to better prepare for the impacts of climate change, which have already occurred or are projected to occur in the future. In this article, we will read about our hopes for oceans to tackle climatic changes in the future.

How Do Oceans Tackle Climate Change?

The ocean is a significant carbon sink and occupies 70% of the Earth’s surface. According to natural processes, the oceans have taken in approximately 25 per cent of human-produced greenhouse gas emissions and could absorb substantially more. The sea takes up carbon dioxide through biological and non-biological processes, such as carbon sinks like phytoplankton and whales. Here are some ways experts feel the ocean’s potential should be included in climate change strategies:

oceans to tackle climate change graph

1. An Emphasis On Renewable Energy

Winds, waves, and currents in the water constitute a vast source of clean energy that can help cut greenhouse gas emissions while fulfilling electricity demand. Offshore winds blow harder and more consistently than those on land, contributing to an ongoing supply of renewable energy. It is also windiest in the afternoon and evening when available renewable solar energy decreases but daily electricity demand increases. Furthermore, new technology for harnessing the power of waves and currents has the potential to significantly contribute to generating renewable energy.

2. Sustainable Transportation

A large portion of the world’s trade is transported by sea. While the greenhouse gas emissions from this are relatively large, numerous options exist to make marine travel more sustainable. Accordingly, by employing a combination of currently available technologies, such as modifying hull designs, switching to liquified natural gas, biofuels, and wind power, or optimizing ship speed and capacity, emissions may be cut by more than 75%.

3. Food Safety

Marine fisheries remain one of the most sustainable protein sources for human consumption, with a lower overall carbon footprint than many land-based food sources. Aquaculture also has promise, which involves cultivating or rearing fish or plants like seaweed in the water.

4. Wildlife Habitat Restoration

Restoring coastal habitats such as mangroves, tidal wetlands, and kelp forests will aid in carbon dioxide capture and storage, keeping it from entering the atmosphere. Furthermore, coastal habitat restoration will help defend against flooding and erosion, mitigating the effects of increased extreme weather.

What are Some Ocean-based Carbon Dioxide Removal Techniques?

Here’s a list of some ocean-based carbon dioxide removal techniques which help oceans to tackle climate change:

Artificial Upwelling and Downwelling

This approach uses vertical pipes to transport nutrient-rich water from depth to the surface, boosting phytoplankton growth. Phytoplankton absorbs CO2 during photosynthesis, and pipelines transport the carbon-rich water from the surface to the depths.

Seaweed Farming

The cultivation of seaweed, called macroalgae, which transforms absorbed atmospheric carbon dioxide into naturally occurring carbon when it develops through photosynthesis, is known as Seaweed farming. The seaweed can then be harvested (for example, for bioenergy or low-carbon products like seaweed packaging materials) and dropped into the bottom of the sea for carbon sequestration. Biomass might remain sequestered for over 500 years when sunk below 1,000 meters in some sections of the ocean, but the time would be much shorter if the biomass were dropped in shallower waters. Reduced rates of ocean acidification are among the environmental co-benefits.

Ocean Fertilization

This procedure delivers iron, nitrogen, or phosphorus to the ocean’s surface to stimulate phytoplankton growth. The expectation is that phytoplankton would absorb carbon dioxide before dying and sinking, transporting the carbon they contain to the deep ocean or bottom sediment for long-term storage. Some experts predict that the positives include increased fish population growth rates due to increased phytoplankton productivity. Others are concerned that this could lead to toxic algal blooms or shift nutrients to other sites.

Enhancement of Ocean Alkalinity

This approach entails adding ground limestone and other alkaline rocks to ocean water. The addition causes a chain of chemical events that allow the sea to consume more CO2 than the atmosphere. Materials for this approach could be extracted on land and then distributed to beaches or supplied to seawater via pipes or ships.

Navigating Challenges in Ocean Carbon Dioxide Removal Research

The above approach has the potential to dramatically speed up natural mineral weathering procedures, which generally take thousands of years to absorb CO2. This, like seaweed cultivation, has the potential to reduce ocean acidification. Potential hazards include higher levels of hazardous metals and other minerals, whose impact on biodiversity is mainly unknown.

Studies are being conducted to determine how well ocean carbon dioxide extraction strategies would function, what risks they pose, and how to safeguard the ocean environment best. Most of the proposed methods have yet to be tried on a large scale and will require much more research until we can determine if and how they may be utilized to combat climate change. While international and domestic laws govern ocean-based activities, such as the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the London Convention and Protocol, robust legal frameworks must be explicitly tailored to ocean carbon dioxide removal research.

In contrast to nature-based solutions, there are still several unresolved issues that need to be satisfactorily answered before any of the technology-based solutions characterized currently can be used on an extensive basis, such as, but not limited to, how well those suggested remedies work, the way they could impact communities located on agricultural land and aquatic environments, whether or not the known impacts can be mitigated, what the plan is for mitigating unintended consequences, and whether or not these proposed solutions can or should be deployed on a large scale.

What Can Be Concluded?

People carried out a planetary-scale experiment with disastrous results by releasing greenhouse gasses into the environment unchecked for hundreds of years. Negative-emission technologies and policies should not expose the Earth to future planetary-scale experiments with unknown consequences; careful study, creation, evaluation, consultation, and regulation are required. Meanwhile, nature-based ocean solutions should be broadly deployed and well-funded because of their benefits to the climate, ecosystems, and communities. Furthermore, sufficient social and governance safeguards must be in place to prevent future devastating effects on communities and environments.

Also Read: How Humans Have Given Back To The Oceans?



  • Dr. Tanushree Kain

    Tanushree is a passionate Environmentalist with a Doctorate in Environmental Sciences. She is also a Gold medalist in Master of Science (M.Sc), Environmental Sciences. She has 6 years of experience as a guest faculty in Environmental Sciences. With her combination of technical knowledge and research expertise, she can create clear, accurate, and engaging content that helps users get the maximum information regarding environmental topics.

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