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Antacids for the Sea: Ocean Alkalinization Enhancement in Combating Climate Change

The Monmouth University Institute for Global Understanding (IGU) and Urban Coast Institute (UCI) kicked off their 2020 Global Ocean Governance Lecture Series on Oct. 12 with Dr. Wil Burns, co-executive director of the Institute for Carbon Removal Law and Policy at American University. Burns delivered a lecture titled, “Antacids for the Sea: The Potential Role of Ocean Alkalinization Enhancement in Combating Climate Change.” Click here to download slides (PDF, 2 MB) or here for information about additional lectures in the series.

Lecture Abstract

It is becoming increasingly clear that achievement of the Paris Agreement’s temperature targets will require both aggressive policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and large-scale deployment of so-called “carbon dioxide removal” options, i.e. processes that remove carbon from the atmosphere to reduce radiative forcing. While much of the early research in this context focused on terrestrial options, scalability and sustainability issues have led to increasing interest in ocean-based approaches. This presentation focuses on one of the more promising options: ocean alkalinization enhancement, which seeks to enhance storage of carbon dioxide in the world’s oceans through the addition of limestone or other substances. The presentation will examine the potential effectiveness of this approach, potential risks to ocean ecosystems, and avenues for international governance.

Biography 

Dr. Wil Burns is a Professor of Research and Founding Co-Executive Director of the Institute for Carbon Removal Law & Policy at American University in Washington, DC. Prior to this, he served as the Founding Co-Executive Director of the Forum for Climate Engineering Assessment at American, Director of the Energy Policy & Climate program at Johns Hopkins University, and Assistant Secretary of State for Policy for the state of Wisconsin.

He also serves as the Co-Chair of the International Environmental Law Section of the American Branch of the International Law Association. Previously, he served as President of the Association of Environmental Studies & Sciences and was the 2019 recipient of the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Scholarship and Service in the field. His research agenda includes: climate geoengineering, climate loss and damage, and the effectiveness of the European Union’s Emissions Trading System. He received his Ph.D. in International Law from the University of Wales-Cardiff School of Law and is the author of more than 80 publications.