Document Type

Report

Publication Date

2021

Disciplines

Environmental Law | Law | Law of the Sea

Center/Program

Sabin Center for Climate Change Law

Abstract

Many scientists now agree that achieving the 2015 Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to “well below” 2°C, and ideally to 1.5°C, above pre-industrial levels will require both major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and the removal of massive amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Various terrestrial and ocean-based carbon dioxide removal techniques have been proposed, but further research is needed to evaluate their relative benefits and drawbacks. Initial studies suggest that terrestrial carbon dioxide removal techniques, such as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, may require large amounts of land, which could lead to conflicts with other users. This may be less of an issue where carbon dioxide removal is performed in the oceans, given their large surface area and the fact that human users of the oceans are typically broadly dispersed.

One widely discussed ocean carbon dioxide removal technique is ocean alkalinity enhancement, which involves adding alkalinity to ocean waters, either by discharging alkaline materials (e.g., ground olivine or dunite rock) or through an electrochemical process. The addition increases ocean pH levels, thereby enabling greater uptake of carbon dioxide, while also reducing the adverse impacts of ocean acidification.

This paper examines the international and U.S. legal frameworks that apply to ocean alkalinity enhancement. Subsequent work will examine the relevant laws of selected other coastal countries.

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