Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Blue Carbon Discussed

A Blue Carbon session was held at the National Council for Science and the Environment's “Our Changing Oceans” meeting last week in Washing D.C. (Jan. 19-21).

The session focused on our current range of potential approaches to sequester carbon in the oceans, i.e. the blue carbon approach and ocean fertilization. Issues discussed included the need for comprehensive research (including the role of science funding agencies), what a potential blue carbon market would look like, governance issues in the coasts and open oceans, readily available policy opportunities, and how to tackle greater policy targets.

The blue carbon panelists included Steven Lutz (myself), Director of Blue Climate Solutions, Linwood Pendleton, Director of Ocean and Coastal Policy, Nicholas Institute, and Steve Crooks, Climate Change Director, ESA PWA.

Ocean fertilization panelists included Ken Buesseler (co-chair), Senior Scientist, Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Dept. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Fei Chai, Professor of Oceanography School of Marine Sciences and Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, and Chris Vivian, Cefas, UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

A list of recommendations was requested from the conference organizers, here is what we came up with:

Task 1. Recognize the importance of coastal and ocean carbon sequestration in climate change discussions (e.g. Governments, IPCC, COP)

Task 2. Regarding coastal and ocean carbon sequestration policy and research, we need to identify cabinet level leadership (e.g. establish an SOST working group, include in White House CEQ guidelines, and include in National Ocean Policy)

Task 3. To encourage coordinated US federal research and policy regarding coastal and ocean carbon sequestration, we need to identify who’s in charge at the agency level and their roles (e.g., DOE, DOI, NSF, NASA, NOAA, USGS, EPA etc.)

Task 4. Fund and develop comprehensive ocean carbon science programs that examine the fate of carbon from watersheds to the open ocean.

Task 5. While we recognize the need for research on coastal and ocean carbon sequestration we should take immediate action to conserve ecosystems that are already known to sequester carbon.

Blue Carbon at the Executive Level - on Friday, one of the questions posed by a member of the audience to Dr. John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, asked about views on ocean fertilization. The question was framed in a context with blue carbon.

Dr. Holdren’s answer drew clear distinction between blue carbon and ocean fertilization. He included mention of seagrasses and mangroves (as potential natural carbon sinks) and referred to ocean fertilization as “fiddling with the oceans.” The video of his comments should be available on the Our Changing Oceans web site later this week.

BCS flyer for the Our Changing Oceans meeting. 

For the Our Changing Oceans on the web see:

For the Breakout Session, Blue Carbon: Carbon Sequestration in the Marine Environment, including many blue carbon references (click on articles), see: