Southern Cross University

11/28/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 11/27/2023 20:01

New guide will streamline global research on storing man-made carbon dioxide in world’s oceans

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New guide will streamline global research on storing man-made carbon dioxide in world's oceans

Published28 November 2023


A Southern Cross University researcher is at the cutting edge of efforts globally to understand if making oceans more alkaline could provide a solution to the catastrophic impact of climate change.

Associate Professor Kai Schulz is a co-lead author for the new publication, 'Guide to Best Practices in Ocean Alkalinity Enhancement Research', which will be showcased today at an event related to the latest UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP28, held in the UAE.

His chapter, 'Seawater carbonate chemistry considerations for ocean alkalinity enhancement research: theory, measurements, and calculations' explains, in theory, how enhancing the ocean's alkalinity would raise pH levels, in turn increasing its capacity to absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), helping to mitigate climate change.

Professor Schulz said the publication would serve as a guiding framework for research across the world, which is required to assess the benefits and risks of changing the ocean's pH levels as a possible response to climate change.

As modelling makes it clear the world will not reach the 1.5 degrees Celsius warming target set by the Paris Agreement in 2015, the research community is turning to climate system scale interventions, known as geoengineering.

"I wish we weren't having to think about this," Professor Schulz said. "We would have been better to deal with the threat of climate change by reducing emissions, but it is clear now that we will not get there with reductions alone.

"So our choice is to stay on our course or explore every avenue to help protect our communities from the profound impact of the climate emergency, which we are now seeing in extreme events around the world."

Associate Professor Schulz said he and his colleagues were acutely aware of the potential impacts of human intervention in global systems such as the ocean, which made research - and frameworks to guide best practice - critical.

"We know there is a clear relationship between the alkalinity of water and its ability to absorb C02 - so we know there is potential there," he said. "But we need to understand all the possible causes and impacts.

"What will it mean for plankton, for instance, and the role it plays in ocean food chain? What might it mean for ocean ecosystems? There is much we need to determine before we can even think about projects at scale in our oceans."

"The guide to best practices is an enabling document that will provide rigour in how research is conducted and ensure there is consistency in what is being done wherever it is in the world."

Southern Cross University operates four research impact clusters, and Associate Professor Schulz is part of the Reefs and Oceans cluster.

His work on ocean pH sits alongside the University's other ground-breaking endeavours including coral larval restoration (or Coral IVF) and Marine Cloud Brightening, a systems scale measures to protect the Great Barrier Reef from the harmful effects of bleaching.

Media contact

Sharlene King, Media Office at Southern Cross University +61 429 661 349 or [email protected]

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