At a Glance
Internet, Software, Hardware and Technology Services
Mountain View, CA
Abhinav Agrawal surveyed biological Ocean Carbon Removal opportunities and co-authored a report exploring approaches, scale potential, challenges, and next steps.
Due to the massive amount of photosynthesis that occurs in the oceans, Google is interested in researching ocean carbon dioxide removal approaches to address climate change. New synthetic biology technologies may offer significant CDR scaling potential. Google enlisted Abhinav Agrawal to identify and interview researchers and philanthropists, and report on this. If interesting, then aim to increase early-stage research funding to better predict the efficacy or consequences of these approaches on the ocean ecosystems.
Interviewing 30+ researchers, philanthropists, and policy-makers yielded these key findings:
Guiding principles: Wide adoption of ocean CDR requires operating with a set of principles that focus on making ocean ecosystems flourish, including enhancing food security and implementing a control strategy.
Ocean Carbon Sequestration: For multi-GTCO2/yr scale, augmenting the primary productivity of macroalgae and phytoplankton, and enhancing carbon sequestration capabilities could be key. For sequestration, the organic carbon substance needs to be: carbon-rich (high C:N ratio), have an increased descent rate, and be recalcitrant (inert/indigestible). Modifying metabolic pathways is critical to introduce these characteristics into the organisms.
Directing early stage research funding towards nascent work in this field can resolve uncertainties in impact, and concerns about unintended consequences.
The net primary production of marine photosynthesis is approximately 200GTCO2/yr, yet only 0.3% of that is sequestered.
For example, if primary production were doubled and 10% of all the photosynthesis products were made recalcitrant, this could sequester 40GTCO2/yr. Alternately, if photosynthesis increased by 30%, and 2/3 of that product were sequestered, this could also sequester 40GTCO2/yr. Ocean CDR methods may be the only technology that could have the potential to offset mankind’s emissions and reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere - key to solving climate change.