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Ocean storage refers to storing CO2 in the oceans. Some scientists advocate for this in, for example, the IPCC reports on climate change. It works by injecting CO2 into the oceans at great depths. As a way to remove it from the atmosphere. So far, researchers are investigating the technique. Although, it is difficult to determine the effect this could have on life in the ocean.

Climate change

Human emissions of greenhouse gases are causing climate change and global warming. These emissions have been going on since the industrial revolution. For example, the level of CO2 has increased by 45%. Hence we must stop emitting the gas. However, just stopping to emit CO2 will not be enough. As it stays in the atmosphere for 300-1000 years. Therefore, there is a need to remove the gas from the atmosphere. This is why scientists are discussing different carbon capture and storage techniques. One of the ideas is ocean storage. 

How is the ocean used as a storage facility?

The oceans store CO2 naturally. They are some of the planet’s largest carbon sinks, storing about 25% of human emissions each year. The higher amount of CO2 in oceans is already causing ocean acidification. This risks harming plants and other marine life. Yet, acidification is happening on the ocean’s surface. This is why some propose storing CO2 in the deep sea. 

The oceans cover over 70% of the Earth’s surface. They have an average depth of about 3.800 metres. In theory, there is no physical limit to how much CO2 could be stored there. However, the vast majority of the ocean floor remains unexplored. This means that there are ecosystems and organisms there that humans are not aware of. Hence, ocean storage would come with great and unknown risks. More so, experiments do show that an increase in CO2 can harm marine organisms.

Environmental damage

Mainly, the effects of injecting CO2 are being studied on individual organisms that live near the ocean surface. Among things, scientists have discovered reduced rates of reproduction and growth. Also, increased mortality over time. Overall, the public appears critical or uncertain of ocean storage. Generally, because of the risk of harming marine life. Or the unknown chain reactions that an injection of CO2 could start.

Environmental activists point out that nature is fragile and that there are other ways to mitigate climate change. For example, CO2 is removed naturally by increasing forests. Finally, another common critique of technical carbon capture and storage ideas, is that they allow people to emit more CO2. In other words, if CO2 is stored, industries can keep emitting it.

Sources: IPCC, The Maritime Executive, NASA, Frontiers.

 


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