Jun 7, 2023 - Technology

New effort unveiled to speed ocean CO2 removal

Illustration of an open clamshell with a carbon dioxide molecule inside instead of a pearl. 

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A new nonprofit group called the Carbon to Sea Initiative has raised over $50 million to back research and development into potentially accelerating carbon dioxide absorption into the world's oceans.

Driving the news: The philanthropy-backed group, spun out of Additional Ventures, is focused on better understanding the scaleability and safety of "ocean alkalinity enhancement" (OAE).

  • It aims to speed natural "weathering," in which alkaline minerals increase oceans' already mammoth CO2 uptake, while fighting ocean acidification.

What's next: The initiative will evaluate various OAE pathways, and "catalyze locally-owned and operated field research sites." The group also plans to "help develop responsible regulatory frameworks."

Zoom in: It has already committed $23 million in grants for four research projects, with recipients like the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and UC Santa Barbara.

  • It's also backing plans to build five "prototype solutions" and monitor them.
  • Funders include Additional Ventures, Astera, Builders Initiative, Catalyst for Impact, and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

Reality check: OAE's emergence as a meaningful and safe climate tool is an "if," not a "when."

Why it matters: Carbon removal methods can compliment — but not replace —emissions-cutting tech like renewables to keep Paris Agreement temperature-limiting goals within reach, or help cool the world if they're overshot.

The bottom line: "If we find that OAE can be applied at scale, we can unlock one of the most efficient, cost-effective approaches to [carbon dioxide removal] for humanity," Mike Schroepfer, co-founder of Additional Ventures and the initiative's board chair, said in a statement.

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