EU Project

Mobilizing the ocean for climate protection

GEOMAR coordinates research project on ocean-based negative emissions technologies
[17. June 2020] 

Humanity cannot limit global warming to 1.5 degrees unless action is taken. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has shown this in its special report from 2018. In addition to reducing emissions to nearly zero, humanity must actively remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere in order to achieve the climate goal. From 1 July, scientists from 14 institutions in six countries including the Alfred Wegener Institute will be examining the opportunities and risks of ocean-based technologies for such negative emissions. The EU is funding the OceanNETs project within the Horizon 2020 programme with a total of 7.2 million euros. The overall coordination lies with the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel.

In 2015, the international community agreed in Paris to limit global warming to two degrees or less. In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a special report which shows clear advantages in limiting global warming to only 1.5 degrees: less loss of biodiversity, fewer extreme weather events, less sea level rise, to name just a few examples. Model calculations used by the IPCC also show that this 1.5 degree goal is still achievable. To reach this target, however, almost all model simulations require negative emissions. “This means that in addition to the urgently needed emission reductions, technologies including nature-based solutions that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere are also necessary,” says Dr. David Keller, climate researcher at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel.

Such negative emissions technologies (NETs) have already been investigated for several years with regard to potential, risks and side effects. ”However, up to now the focus has mostly been on land-based methods”, says Dr. Keller, ”knowledge about ocean-based NETs remains limited, although the ocean has a much higher capacity for carbon absorption and storage - simply because of its surface area and volume”.

In order to close the existing gaps in knowledge, Dr. Keller, together with partners from 14 institutions in six different countries, has successfully acquired funding for the OceanNETs project from the European Community. The EU is funding it with a total of 7.2 million euros over the next four years as part of the Horizon2020 programme. Of this, 2.5 million euros alone will go to GEOMAR for project coordination and various sub-projects.

Scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) contribute model simulations with one negative emission technology, the so-called ocean alkalinisation to OceanNETs. These simulations will take into account newly generated process understanding from OceanNETs, to provide a more robust assessment of the potential, risks and side effects of ocean alkalinisation for marine life.

More information can be found in the GEOMAR press release.

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