An Ocean-Climate Restoration Agenda to Arrest and Reverse Climate Disruption  
What's Needed?

To have a realistic chance of success at slowing and ultimately reversing the disruption of the climate and the ocean, we need a restoration agenda that is comprehensive, with diverse approaches, actions and investments.  

There are 3 main arenas that need investment. 

 

Decarbonization

Turning off the tap of dangerous pollutants is critical to long term ocean and climate health and safety

Clean-Up

aka "Negative Emissions"

Simply stopping future emission is no longer sufficent; we must also clean up the legacy of 150+ years of CO2 pollution 

Ecosystem "Life Support"

Key parts of the global ocean-climate system are changing so fast that they may outpace our efforts to restore the climate

I.  Decarbonization: The transition to a low carbon economy 

We must continue to focus on ‘decarbonizing’ the global economy as quickly as possible, which means getting greenhouse gases out of energy, transportation, building, agriculture, mining, manufacturing, and all other producing sectors.

The ingenuity and innovation required to achieve this is enormous; contributions need to come from many discipline, sectors and jurisdictions. Private and public investment is needed at scales far exceeding where we are today.

However, decarbonization alone is unequivocally not sufficient to arrest climate disruption, much less get to a far more desirable goal of global climate restoration.  Recognizing this , the IPCC and other leading climate scientists have conceded for some time that “negative emissions” are now absolutely necessary as another element of our climate agenda. 

II.  Clean Up:  Removing 150 Years of Carbon Pollution:  

"Negative Emissions"

An effective negative emissions portfolio is going to require enormous ingenuity, innovation, energy and investment.

 

And it will need a variety of approaches – both natural (nature-based) and industrial/mechanical.

 

At the moment the global ‘negative emissions’ portfolio is barely a sliver of overall global investment in the climate response portfolio. It needs to be significantly expanded with innovation across multiple geographies and sectors needed.

An effective negative emissions portfolio is going to require enormous ingenuity, innovation, energy and investment.

 

And it will need a variety of approaches – both natural (nature-based) and industrial/mechanical.

 

At the moment the global ‘negative emissions’ portfolio is barely a sliver of overall global investment in the climate response portfolio. It needs to be significantly expanded with innovation across multiple geographies and sectors needed.

 

However, decarbonization and negative emissions may not succeed in time to ensure a safe and stable climate.

Even  successful scaling of negative emissions , coupled with robust decarbonization, still leaves the planet facing an unacceptable risk of irreversible losses, in the form of the unraveling of critical parts of the global climate system, which could even lead to “runaway” or unstoppable climate change.  

 

There are key parts of the global ocean and cryosphere systems that are so important to life on the planet that we cannot allow them to be lost. 

 

The current ocean and climate agendas are failing to hedge these profound risks.  A climate agenda that exposes us and all other living beings to the possibility of spectacular failure, at any level of probability, cannot be considered acceptable . 

III.  Avoiding Dangerous Tipping Points:  Ecosystem Life Support

It will take time for the cooling effects of decarbonization and CO2 clean-up to arrest the dangerous destabilization we see in the ocean, the cryosphere and the biosphere.  We may not have enough time before dangerous and possibly irreversible changes occur.

It is only prudent to do everything we can to buy time, and build “hedges” against the possibility of less than fully effective performance of decarbonization and negative emissions actions. 


This part of the ocean-climate restoration agenda focuses on sourcing and developing innovations and interventions that might be effective in slowing down the rate of change in critical global systems that we cannot afford to lose.   

 

Critical climate foundations include Arctic sea ice (the globe’s air conditioner); permafrost (which holds more carbon and methane that are currently in our atmosphere), Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets (whose melting will have calamitous impacts on coastal communities and nearshore ecosystems around the world); acidification of our oceans (which threatens the very foundations and viability of oceanic life); and extreme warming and deoxygenation of the seas (which threatens global primary production and atmospheric oxygen). 

There are tipping points in every one of these systems, which if exceeded mean there may be no going back, and each of which create positive feedback for more climate disruption.

 

The problem is that we are not sure where these tipping points are for each of these systems.  

 

Accordingly, it is only prudent to know whether or not there are possible interventions that can buy us time, if we need it, while we are actively working to see how long it will take the first two parts of the agenda to succeed. The more time we can buy, the better our chances for overall climate stabilization and ultimately restoration. 

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