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Geoengineering the oceans: an emerging frontier in international climate change governance

Wil Burns's picture
Visiting Professor, Environmental Policy & Culture Program Northwestern University

Dr. Wil Burns is a Visiting Professor in the Environmental Policy & Culture Program at Northwestern University. Prior to this, he was the Founding Co-Director of the Institute for Carbon...

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International climate change policy is increasingly reliant upon future large-scale removal and sequestration of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Assumptions on the development of ‘negative emissions’ technologies are built into recent IPCC emissions modelling and the 2015 Paris Agreement. Terrestrial proposals, such as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, may be of limited benefit as the estimated land required would be vast and may negatively impact upon food security. The world’s oceans could play an important role in meeting international climate change targets. ‘Marine geoengineering’ is being proposed to enhance the oceans capacity to sequester emissions and enhance the Earth’s albedo. This article draws on discussions at a recent Marine Geoengineering Symposium held at the University of Tasmania to highlight prominent marine geoengineering proposals and raise questions about the readiness of the international law system to govern further research and implementation of these ideas.

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