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Geoengineering the oceans: An emerging frontier in international climate change governance

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International climate change policy is increasingly reliant upon future large-scale removal and sequestration of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Assumptions on the development of ‘negative emissions’ technologies are built into recent IPCC emissions modelling and the 2015 Paris Agreement. Terrestrial proposals, such as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, may be of limited benefit as the estimated land required would be vast and may negatively impact upon food security. The world's oceans could play an important role in meeting international climate change targets. ‘Marine geoengineering’ is being proposed to enhance the oceans capacity to sequester emissions and enhance the Earth's albedo. This article draws on discussions at a recent Marine Geoengineering Symposium held at the University of Tasmania to highlight prominent marine geoengineering proposals and raise questions about the readiness of the international law system to govern further research and implementation of these ideas.
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Australian Journal of Maritime & Ocean Affairs
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Geoengineering the oceans: an emerging frontier
in international climate change governance
Jeffrey McGee, Kerryn Brent & Wil Burns
To cite this article: Jeffrey McGee, Kerryn Brent & Wil Burns (2017): Geoengineering the oceans:
an emerging frontier in international climate change governance, Australian Journal of Maritime &
Ocean Affairs, DOI: 10.1080/18366503.2017.1400899
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/18366503.2017.1400899
Published online: 09 Nov 2017.
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Geoengineering the oceans: an emerging frontier in
international climate change governance
Jeffrey McGee
a
, Kerryn Brent
b
and Wil Burns
c
a
Faculty of Law and Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, Centre for Marine Socio-Ecology, University of
Tasmania, Hobart, Australia;
b
Faculty of Law, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia;
c
School of
International Service, American University, Washington, DC, USA
ABSTRACT
International climate change policy is increasingly reliant upon
future large-scale removal and sequestration of greenhouse gases
from the atmosphere. Assumptions on the development of
negative emissionstechnologies are built into recent IPCC
emissions modelling and the 2015 Paris Agreement. Terrestrial
proposals, such as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage,
may be of limited benefit as the estimated land required would
be vast and may negatively impact upon food security. The
worlds oceans could play an important role in meeting
international climate change targets. Marine geoengineeringis
being proposed to enhance the oceans capacity to sequester
emissions and enhance the Earths albedo. This article draws on
discussions at a recent Marine Geoengineering Symposium held
at the University of Tasmania to highlight prominent marine
geoengineering proposals and raise questions about the readiness
of the international law system to govern further research and
implementation of these ideas.
1. Introduction
Climate geoengineering, defined by the UKs Royal Society as the deliberate large-scale
manipulation of the planetary environment to counteract anthropogenic climate
change(The Royal Society 2009) is now at least implicitly embedded in key assumptions
of international climate change policy. The 2015 Paris Agreement aims to limit human
induced climate change to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and undertakes to
pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
1
However, limiting climate change to this range is unlikely to occur solely by reducing
the amount of greenhouse gas emissions going into the atmosphere. The Intergovern-
mental Panel on Climate Changes Fifth Assessment Report (2014a) included 204 separate
scenarios which in integrated assessment model runs held atmospheric temperature
increases to less than 2°C above pre-industrial averages by 2100. Of those 204 scenarios,
184 contemplated large-scale deployment of one form of climate geoengineering, so-
called carbon dioxide removal (CDR) or negative emissionstechnologies, which seek to
© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
CONTACT Jeffrey McGee jeffrey.mcgee@utas.edu.au Faculty of Law and Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies,
Centre for Marine Socio-Ecology, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia
AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF MARITIME & OCEAN AFFAIRS, 2017
https://doi.org/10.1080/18366503.2017.1400899
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remove and sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through biological, geochem-
ical or chemical means. (IPCC 2014a; Moreira et al. 2016). The IPCC is also currently prepar-
ing a report that will include modelling on the 1.5°C stabilisation goal.
2
This report will also
likely rely on significant assumptions regarding future use of negative emissions technol-
ogies, particularly terrestrial negative emissions such as bioenergy with carbon capture
and storage (BECCS).
The climate science and policy communities have also discussed the potentially impor-
tant role of negative emission technologies in responding to overshoot scenarios
(Boucher, Lowe, and Jones 2009). Overshoot of the Paris temperature goals is increasingly
likely, given that the current nationally determined commitments of the Paris Agreement
provide a pathway to a 2.3°C3.5°C temperature increase above pre-industrial levels
and the ambition of current policy settings is pointing to 2.6°4.9° of warming (Climate
Action Tracker 2017).
The oceans have been proposed as a potentially key locus for CDR geoengineering
through early scientific work on an option known as ocean iron fertilization (OIF) (Buesse-
ler and Boyd 2003). OIF would entail seeding iron-deficient areas of the worlds oceans to
stimulate carbon-sequestering phytoplankton production (Hubbard 2016). OIF is one of
few geoengineering proposals that has progressed to field testing (Smetacek and Naqvi
2008; Martin et al. 2013). There have also been proposals for other processes to stimulate
phytoplankton production in the oceans, including with macronutrients such as nitrogen
and phosphorous (Harrison 2017).
In addition to carbon dioxide removal options of this nature, there has also been
research on so-called solar radiation management (SRM) geoengineering approaches.
SRM geoengineering approaches focus on reducing the amount of solar radiation
absorbed by the Earth (estimated at approximately 235 W m
2
currently) by an amount
sufficient to offset some, or all, of the increased trapping of infrared radiation by rising
levels of greenhouse gases, thereby exerting a cooling impact (MacCracken 2009). The
oceans are proposed as potential sites for implementation of SRM techniques such as
marine cloud brightening and enhanced ocean bubbles (NRC SRM Report 2015b), both
approaches of which are described in more detail below.
A national Marine Geoengineering Symposium was held in Hobart, Tasmania on 25
November 2016 hosted by the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) and sup-
ported by the Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre (ACE-CRC) and
the Faculty of Law at the University of Tasmania. This symposium provided a venue for
interdisciplinary discussion and analysis of emerging marine geoengineering technologies
and governance issues. The papers delivered at this symposium explored key scientific
questions including the rationale behind ocean fertilization and how it might provide a
means to enhance the Earths system in terms of sequestering higher levels of carbon
dioxide in the oceans (Bowie 2016) and the role of modelling in understanding CDR
geoengineering proposals (Lenton 2016). Papers also discussed the complex nature of
existing international and Australian domestic law frameworks that are potentially appli-
cable to ocean fertilization and other marine geoengineering proposals (Jabour 2016)
(Brent and McGee 2016) (McDonald and Gogarty 2016). Broader socio-legal questions
were also discussed in terms of the intersection between ocean fertilization and the
rights of indigenous people, including a high profile 2012 attempt at OIF off the
Western coast of Canada (Abate 2016). Suggestions were provided for furthering
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geoengineering governance: one paper proposed that ocean fertilization might provide a
test-bed for the development of more robust geoengineering governance mechanisms at
an international and domestic level (Boyd 2016). Another paper considered how scenarios
might be used by policymakers to gauge public attitudes on geoengineering that can
inform future decision-making on governance (Talberg 2016). Finally, the symposium con-
cluded with a sobering reminder of the consequences of inaction on climate change (i.e.
large-scale negative impacts) and the potential importance of geoengineering technol-
ogies in avoiding the worst of these (Rohling 2016).
The following discussion of marine geoengineering draws inspiration from the papers
and discussion generated from this symposium. The purpose of this discussion is not to
advocate for, or against, marine geoengineering as a part of the human response to
climate change. Instead, we simply seek to point to the assumptions that are gathering
around geoengineering in international climate change policy and the fact that the
oceans are increasingly being viewed as a potential site for geoengineering activity.
However, any research on marine geoengineering technologies outside the laboratory
setting, or potential deployment, will trigger consideration of the adequacy of existing
governance frameworks at both a domestic and international level. This article sketches
the more prominent marine CDR and SRM proposals and flags the key issues they raise
for international governance.
In section 2, we provide a short history of ocean fertilization and how such experiments
led to international law rules for the governance of marine geoengineering. In section 3,
we provide an update on the more prominent proposals for future marine CDR and SRM
technologies. In section 4, we flag some key issues for the international law system in
managing research and potential implementation of marine CDR and SRM technologies.
In section 5, we conclude by pointing out the importance of expediting an interdisciplinary
and international research program on marine geoengineering governance.
2. Ocean fertilization: experimentation and development of governance
The worlds oceans have taken up a large share of the increased energy in the climate
system (IPCC 2014b) caused by anthropogenic climate change. The oceans have also
absorbed thirty percent of atmospheric carbon dioxide from human activities, helping
to reduce potential warming associated with greenhouse gas emissions, but also
causing ocean acidification (IPCC 2014b). However, the worlds oceans also have signifi-
cant further potential for enhanced large-scale capture and storage of carbon dioxide.
One such enhancement option that has gained prominence over the past fifteen years
is ocean fertilization. Since 1993, there have been 15 ocean fertilization field-experiments
(ACE CRC Report 2016).
3
However, most of these early experiments were for non-geoen-
gineering purposes (i.e. to understand changes in ocean productivity and atmospheric
CO
2
concentrations over glacial-interglacial cycles(Strutton 2012)). Later experiments,
such as the 2009 LOHAFEX experiment, examined the potential of ocean fertilization to
sequester carbon dioxide (Schiermeier 2009). Additionally, in 2012 there was a controver-
sial ocean fertilization experiment off the West Coast of Canada on behalf of the Haida
Salmon Restoration Corporation that was ostensibly aimed at improving the yield of fish-
eries in the area (Lukacs 2012).
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Since 2007 there has been significant activity on geoengineering governance within
international regimes on biodiversity protection (Convention on Biological Diversity)
4
and
ocean dumping (London Convention and London Protocol).
5
As mentioned above, ocean
fertilization field tests have been conducted since the early 1990s. However, in the mid
2000s, corporations began proposing the development of ocean fertilization for the
purpose of sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and generating carbon
credits for sale on domestic and/or international carbon markets (Fuentes-George
2017). In May 2007, the US-based corporation Planktos Corp planned to conduct an
in-situ ocean fertilization experiment in a high seas area off the Galapagos Islands in
South America. Planktos proposed dissolving 100 tons of iron dust over a 10,000-
square-kilometre area of the ocean to facilitate a phytoplankton bloom.
6
Environmental
NGOs Greenpeace International and the IUCN brought this proposal to the attention of
the ocean dumping regime. The NGOs highlighted potential for ocean fertilization to
harm the marine environment and a high level of scientific uncertainty surrounding
the proposals.
7
This NGO lobbying prompted the ocean dumping regime and biological diversity
regime to consider what steps might be needed to regulate ocean fertilization
(Fuentes-George 2017).
There have been a number of developments within the ocean dumping and biological
diversity regimes that have been detailed elsewhere (Scott 2013; Ginzky and Frost 2014).
Here, we instead sketch the broad contours of these early attempts at regulating marine
geoengineering.
The initial focus of both regimes was on the issue of ocean fertilization. In 2007, follow-
ing the reports issued by the IUCN and Greenpeace International, the Scientific Group to
the ocean dumping regime issued a statement of concern on ocean fertilization request-
ing the regime consider regulating ocean fertilization.
8
In May 2008, the Convention on
Biological Diversity acknowledged this statement and adopted a non-binding decision
that requested states ensure that ocean fertilization activities do not take place until
there is an adequate scientific basis on which to justify such activities with the excep-
tion of small scale scientific research studies within coastal waters.
9
In October 2008, the
ocean dumping regime similarly adopted a non-binding resolution noting that knowl-
edge on the effectiveness and potential environmental impacts of ocean fertilization is
currently insufficient to justify activities other than legitimate scientific research.
10
This
resolution stated that ocean fertilization activities other than legitimate scientific research
should not be allowed, and recommended developing a framework to assess whether
proposed activities qualify as legitimate scientific research. These early decisions of the
ocean dumping regime and the biological diversity regime therefore reinforced one
another and essentially pursued the same governance aims of: (1) prohibiting ocean
fertilization for commercial purposes; (2) seeking to prevent environmental harm from
ocean fertilization; (3) creating limited exceptions for scientific research in line with a pre-
cautionary approach.
In 2010, the focus of these regimes began to broaden in relation to marine geoengi-
neering. In October of that year, the ocean dumping regime adopted an assessment fra-
mework for states to employ to determine whether proposed ocean fertilization
experiments qualify as legitimate scientific research.
11
This framework first involves eval-
uating the scientific attributes of proposed ocean fertilization experiments and excludes
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proposals that directly give rise to economic gains. The framework also establishes pro-
cesses for risk assessment and management. At the same time as developing this
assessment framework, the ocean dumping regime also started to consider developing
binding (i.e. legally enforceable) rules, not just for ocean fertilization, but for marine
geoengineering activities more broadly.
12
Australia and New Zealand had previously
suggested that the ocean dumping regime broaden its scope to consider other
marine geoengineering proposals, as it was reasonable to assume that they will similarly
fall within the scope of the ocean dumping regime and attract international concern.
13
In October 2010, the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity adopted decision
X/33, which similarly broadened its scope from ocean fertilization to climate-related
geo-engineering activities.
14
Decision X/33 provides a non-binding ban on all geoengi-
neering activities (both CDR and SRM) that may negatively affect biodiversity. Once
again, this decision created an exception for small-scale scientific research carried out
in a controlled setting.
In 2013, parties to the ocean dumping regime adopted a further resolution, amend-
ing the 1996 London Protocol to create binding rules for regulating marine geoengi-
neering.
15
Resolution LP.4(8) defines marine geoengineering broadly. It includes
marine geoengineering for climate purposes, as well as marine geoengineering activi-
ties intended to improve marine productivity, such as the 2012 Haida incident off
Canada. At present, the rules only provide detailed regulation of ocean fertilization,
which is prohibited unless it qualifies as legitimate scientific research.
16
LP.4(8) also pro-
vides a general assessment framework, similar to the framework adopted for ocean fer-
tilization in 2010, which can be used by states to assess whether other marine
geoengineering proposals may qualify for a permit. LP.4(8) therefore establishes a regu-
latory framework that could be adapted to govern future field testing and deployment
of other marine geoengineering technologies. However, these rules will only become
binding once the amendment enters into force. This requires a two-thirds majority
of Contracting Parties accepting the amendment.
17
At present, only the United
Kingdom has accepted the amendment. Thus, while LP.4(8) may provide a useful
guide for the regulation of ocean fertilization and other marine geoengineering
research, states (and their scientists and policymakers) are not yet bound under inter-
national law to comply with LP.4(8).
Several additional field tests of ocean fertilization may take place in the near future. A
team of scientists from South Korea, funded by the Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fish-
eries, propose conducting ocean fertilization field tests in the Southern Ocean in 2018
(Yoon et al. 2016). A private company is also proposing to conduct a similar ocean fertiliza-
tion activity off the coast of Chile in 2018 (Tollefson 2017). These are the first field tests
proposed since amendment LP.4(8) was adopted in 2013. South Korea and Chile are
both Parties to the London Protocol, but have not as yet accepted the LP.4(8) amend-
ments. The assessment framework for ocean fertilization that was finalised in 2010
would nevertheless be relevant to both proposals. It will be interesting to ascertain the
extent to which these rules influence the manner in which ocean fertilization activities
are planned and conducted. These proposed field tests will therefore be more than
mere physical science experiments they will also test the first formal attempts to regulate
geoengineering under international law.
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3. Proposals for other types of marine geoengineering
As the international law system has made early efforts to regulate ocean fertilization activi-
ties, marine scientists have formulated additional CDR and SRM proposals involving the
oceans. Most of these proposals have not yet moved beyond the drawing board or labora-
tory stage. However, the following list provides an indication of some of the marine geoen-
gineering proposals that have been introduced in peer-reviewed scientific literature in
recent years:
(1) Enhanced weathering and mineral carbonation techniques
Weatheringrefers to natural processes by which rocks (i.e. silicate and carbonate rocks)
break down (Taylor et al.). As part of this process, carbon dioxide reacts with these rocks
and is thereby removed from the atmosphere for thousands of years (The Royal Society
2009; NRC CDR Report 2015a). According to Hartmann et al. (2013), this reaction
between carbon dioxide and silicate rocks has regulated the Earths carbon cycle and
climate for several eons. In the oceans, dissolved carbon dioxide from the atmosphere
reacts with powdered minerals (Hartmann et al. 2013; NRC CDR Report 2015a). Such reac-
tions can form sediments that settle on the ocean floor (NRC CDR Report 2015a). However,
this naturally occurring weathering process is slow. One geoengineering proposal is to
accelerate this process by adding powdered minerals to the ocean to increase the rate
of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere. This could also counteract ocean acid-
ification from elevated atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (The Royal Society
2009; Hartmann et al. 2013).
(2) Enhanced kelp farming
A further marine geoengineering proposal involves cultivating kelp (seaweed). Growth
of kelp removes carbon dioxide from the oceans through photosynthesis (Duarte et al.
2017). There are doubts on the extent to which kelp can act as a long term carbon sink,
as it eventually decomposes and the carbon may thereby re-enter the atmosphere
(Duarte et al. 2017). However, kelp might be used as a biomass to replace fossil fuels in
energy production and therefore contribute to the production of BECCS (Chung et al.
2013; Duarte et al. 2017).
(3) Ocean up-welling and/or down-welling
Ocean upwelling proposals involve using large-scale vertical pipes in the oceans to
bring nutrient-rich water from the deep ocean to the surface (The Royal Society 2009).
This method is an alternative to ocean fertilization. Instead of adding nutrients to stimu-
late phytoplankton growth, nutrients would instead be transferred from the deep ocean
(Lovelock and Rapley 2007). Similar pipes could also be used to enhance the down-
welling of carbon-rich cold water for storage in the deep ocean (Zhou and Flynn 2005;
The Royal Society 2009).
(4) Ocean alkalisation for coral reef recovery/restoration
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Increased concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere makes the oceans
more acidic (IGBP, IOC, SCOR 2013). Ocean acidification reduces coral reef growth and
the associated carbon sequestration provided by coral reefs. This geoengineering proposal
therefore attempts to offset reductions in coral reef growth by mixing alkaline substances
(such as calcium carbonate) into seawater (Feng et al. 2016). Whilst there are practical con-
cerns about the ability of this approach to protect whole reefs, it might be useable at a
smaller scale.
(5) Marine cloud brightening
Clouds reflect a percentage of incoming solar radiation (sunlight) into space, preventing
it from warming the earths surface. Low clouds over dark ocean surfaces are especially
effective at influencing the earths reflectivity or albedo(NRC SRM Report 2015b).
Marine cloud brightening proposes to increase the longevity and whiteness of ocean
clouds (Latham et al. 2012). This technique would involve seedingexisting marine
ocean clouds with microscopic sea water particles, increasing the amount of droplets
within the cloud to enhance the amount of incoming sunlight it reflects (Jones and
Haywood 2012; Latham et al. 2012).
(6) Microbubbles to enhance ocean albedo
Microbubbles dispersed in water have similar reflective properties to water droplets
found in in clouds (Seitz 2011). A further proposal to enhance the earths albedo is to
create microbubbles to brighten the surface of the ocean. Microbubbles could be gener-
ated at strategic locations to have a localised cooling effect (i.e. the tropics) and could also
be generated from ships to enhance the brightness of their wakes that can be kilometres
long (Seitz 2011).
4. Marine geoengineering: key issues for the international law system
Proposals to develop geoengineering technologies pose significant challenges for the
international law system. The concept of geoengineering automatically gives rise to con-
sideration of international law as geoengineering technologies are broadly intended to
manipulate the atmosphere and/or global climate system (The Royal Society 2009). As a
class of geoengineering activities, CDR proposals are generally perceived to involve less
perturbation in the Earths system compared to SRM proposals, such as use of strato-
spheric aerosols (NRC CDR Report 2015a). However, proposals to use the oceans as a
site for geoengineering raises questions about their impact on the marine environment.
As discussed above, risk of harm to the marine environment and human health from
placing large amounts of iron particles into the oceans was a key driver behind the
2013 amendments to the London Protocol. Enhanced weathering and other marine geoen-
gineering proposals that involve placing large quantities of minerals or other matter into
the oceans raise similar concerns (NRC CDR Report 2015a). A key challenge for the inter-
national law system is therefore how to govern risks of harm to the marine environment
from marine geoengineering, and how to respond to such harm should it eventuate. This
may include developing rules and institutions to provide mechanisms for environmental
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impact and risk assessment, systems for monitoring results of geoengineering, mechan-
isms for civil society consultation and/or participation, plus rules for responsibility/liability
for transboundary harm to the territory of other states and harm to the oceans as a global
commons.
A further challenge is to understand how existing rules of international law might
apply to different marine geoengineering proposals. As stated above, the 2013 amend-
ments to the London Protocol establish a framework that could be used to govern marine
geoengineering proposals (including scientific research) in addition to ocean fertilization.
However, in addition, there are a number of other regimes for ocean governance that
may be relevant to marine geoengineering proposals. These regimes include the 1982
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,
18
1995 United Nations Fish Stocks Agree-
ment,
19
1980 Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources,
20
1972
Convention Concerning the Protection of World Culture and Natural Heritage,
21
and the
2015 Paris Agreement. In addition to international agreements, rules of customary inter-
national law are also likely to be relevant, including the obligation on states to prevent
significant transboundary harm and harm to the global commons, as well as the precau-
tionary principle/approach. Finally, it is also important to understand the interplay
between these existing rules and regimes in the context of marine geoengineering.
That is, how they might overlap and interact to form an existing governance structure
for marine geoengineering.
The initial governance efforts to respond to ocean fertilization in the ocean dumping
regime and biological diversity regime largely followed a preventative and/or precau-
tionary approach. As noted above, governance efforts within these regimes have primar-
ily been directed at minimising the risk of harm to the marine environment and
biodiversity. We do not question the need to address the risks of environmental
harm from ocean fertilization and other marine geoengineering proposals. However,
protecting the marine environment from harm might no longer be appropriate as the
primary goal of marine geoengineering governance. The targets set under the 2015
Paris Agreement (and the IPCC emission pathways informing these targets) present a
new challenge for international law and geoengineering governance. As stated above,
the Paris Agreement implicitly relies on large-scale negative emissions in the second
half of this century in order to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius. The
international governance of geoengineering technologies therefore now needs to
develop in such a way as to support and eventually realise the assumptions built into
the Paris Agreement. It is no longer enough for international law and governance to
be driven by the risks of developing negative emissions technologies. Consideration
must also be given to the risks of not developing negative emissions technologies
(Larkin et al. 2017). In the case of marine geoengineering governance, it may be necess-
ary to revise the preventative/precautionary approach that has developed around ocean
fertilization and consider whether this approach complements expectations about the
development of negative emissions technologies in the Paris Agreement.Inthe
context of BECCS, Peters and Geden (2017) suggest that a more facilitative approach
to governance and policy may be necessary, including the development of carbon
accounting systems and incentivizing the research and development of BECCS. This
raises the question as to whether a similar approach may be appropriate in the
context of marine geoengineering.
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5. Conclusion
International climate change policy has already moved into a period in which assumptions
about negative emissions are playing a significant role in modelling for future temperature
stabilisation pathways. If these assumptions are to be realised, research into the science,
governance, social acceptability and ethics of terrestrial and marine-based CDR will
need to be accelerated by the research community. Presently, there are many formative
ideas for marine geoengineering, which have not progressed beyond the journal article
or laboratory stage. This lack of progress is in part unsurprising, given the initial highly pre-
cautionary approach to the governance of marine geoengineering put in place by the
ocean dumping and biodiversity regimes. This precautionary approach is also understand-
able, given the heavy emphasis upon mitigation of greenhouse gases within the UNFCCC
process in the lead up to the 2009 Copenhagen COP15 meeting. However, the reality now
facing the global climate regime is that regardless of the ambition of emission reductions,
there will need to be very significant negative emissions later this century to get close to
the 1.5°C2.0°C temperature stabilisation goals of the Paris Agreement. The threats posed
by temperature increases of 3°C or more in this century and beyond may also necessitate
contemplation of the use of SRM approaches that could buy us time on the path to de-
carbonization and help us avoid exceeding critical climatic thresholds.
This new reality for international climate change policy calls for an urgent rethinking of
the current international governance regimes for both terrestrial and marine based geoen-
gineering. For marine geoengineering, the 2013 LP.4(8) amendments of the London Pro-
tocol provide an existing template that might guide initial efforts to govern marine
geoengineering proposals other than ocean fertilization, especially scientific research.
However, governance frameworks for marine geoengineering research and deployment
will be of limited use unless accompanied by parallel societal agreement around the
social acceptability and ethical desirability of marine geoengineering. Any future research
into marine geoengineering will therefore need to be carried out thorough a genuinely
interdisciplinary program of scientists, lawyers, social scientists and ethicists. This interdis-
ciplinary research program will offer the best prospects of properly informing societal
deliberation into research of marine geoengineering and the democratic legitimacy of
any wider application of these techniques.
Notes
1. Paris Agreement, opened for signature 12 December 2016 (entered into force 4 November
2016) art 2(1)(a).
2. IPCC (2017).
3. Prominent examples include: the IronEx-I experiment conducted near the Galapagos Islands in
1993(Coale et al. 1998); the 1999 Southern Ocean Iron Release Experiment(SOIREE) con-
ducted in the Australasian-Pacific sector of the Southern Ocean (http://www.bco-dmo.org/
project/2051); and the Subarctic Ecosystem Response to Iron Enrichment Study(SERIES) con-
ducted in the Gulf of Alaska in 2002 (Boyd et al. 2004).
4. Convention on Biological Diversity, opened for signature 5 June 1992, 1760 UNTS 79 (entered
into force 29 December 1993)
5. Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter,
opened for signature 29 December 1972, 1046 UNTS 138 (entered into force 30 August
1975) (London Convention); 1996 Protocol to the 1972 Convention on the Prevention of
AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF MARITIME & OCEAN AFFAIRS 9
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Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter, opened for signature 7 November
1996, [2006] ATS 11 (entered into force 24 March 2006) (London Protocol).
6. World Conservation Union (IUCN) Regulation of CO
2
sequestrationScientific Group of the
London Convention, 30th mtg, Agenda Item 12, LC/SG 30/12 (8 May 2007); United States,
Planktos, Inc., Large-scale Ocean Iron Addition ProjectsScientific Group of the London Con-
vention, 30th mtg, Agenda Item 12, LC/SG 30/INF.28 (1 June 2007).
7. Greenpeace International, Challenging geo-engineering solutionsto climate change: The
urgent need for detailed scientific scrutiny and international regulations to protect the
oceans from large-scale iron fertilization programs, Scientific Group of the London Conven-
tion, 30th mtg, Agenda Item 12, LC/SG 30/12/1 (8 May 2017) and World Conservation
Union (IUCN) Regulation of CO
2
sequestrationScientific Group of the London Convention,
30th mtg, Agenda Item 12, LC/SG 30/12 (8 May 2007).
8. Statement of concern regarding iron fertilization of the oceans to sequester CO
2
, LC-LP.1/Circ.14
(13 July 2007).
9. Decision adopted by the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity at its
Ninth Meeting: IX/16. Biodiversity and climate change, 9th mtg, Agenda Item 4.5, UNEP/CBD/
COP/DEC/IX/16 (9 October 2008) Section C.
10. Resolution LC-LP.1 (2008) on the Regulation of Ocean Fertilization (adopted 31 October 2008),
Report of the Thirtieth Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the London Convention and
the Third Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the London Protocol, 30th and 3rd mtgs,
Agenda Item 16, Annex 6, LC 30/16 (9 December 2008).
11. Assessment Framework for Scientific Research Involving Ocean Fertilization (adopted 14 October
2010), Report of the Thirty-Second Consultative Meeting and the Fifth Meeting of Contracting
Parties, 32nd and 5th mtgs, Agenda Item 15, Annex 6, LC 32/15 (9 November 2010).
12. See, eg, Australia and New Zealand, Examination of each of the legally binding options
(options 4 to 8 developed in 2009) according to the criteria in the terms of reference,
and of any additional options or criteria received under item 2 & further development
of any of the legally binding options, as necessary: Regulating Ocean Fertilization Exper-
iments under the London Protocol and Convention, LP CO2 3/3/1 (8 February 2010);
Canada, Discussion of an Additional Option to Achieve the Regulation of Legitimate Scien-
tific Research Involving Ocean Fertilization under the London Protocol, LC 32/4/1 (3
August 2010).
13. Australia and New Zealand, Regulating Ocean Fertilization Experiments under the London
Protocol and Convention, LC 31/4/1 (4 September 2009).
14. Decision Adopted by the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity at its
Tenth Meeting: X/33. Biodiversity and climate change, 10th mtg, Agenda Item 5.6, UNEP/CBD/
COP/DEC/X/33 (29 October 2010) paragraph 8(w).
15. Resolution LP.4(8) on the Amendment to the London Protocol to Regulate the Placement of Matter
for Ocean Fertilization and Other Marine Geoengineering Activities (adopted on 18 October 2013),
Report of the Thirty-Fifth Consultative Meeting and the Eight Meeting of Contracting Parties,
35th and 8th mtgs, Agenda Item 15, Annex 4, LC 35/15 (21 October 2013).
16. Resolution LP.4(8) Art 6bis(1); Annex 4 (1.2)(1.3).
17. London Protocol, art 21(3).
18. United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, opened for signature 10 December 1982,
1833 UNTS 3 (entered into force 16 November 1994)
19. Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law
of the Sea of 10 December 1982 Relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish
Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, opened for signature 4 August 1995, 2167 UNTS 3
(entered into force 11 December 2001).
20. Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, opened for signature 20
May 1980, [1982] ATS 9 (entered into force 7 April 1982).
21. Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, opened for
signature 23 November 1972, 1037 UNTS 151 (entered into force 15 December 1975).
10 J.MCGEEETAL.
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Acknowledgements
Kerryns contribution to this article was supported by a scholarship from the Institute for the Study of
Social Change at the University of Tasmania.
Disclosure statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.
Notes on contributors
Dr Jeffrey McGee is the Senior Lecturer in Climate Change, Marine and Antarctic Law at the University
of Tasmania. Dr McGees research is focused on the international architecture of climate change gov-
ernance, negative emissions strategies, Antarctic governance and realist theories of international
law. Dr McGee has over a decade of experience in private legal practice and as a senior legal
adviser to the Australia government. He is a fellow of the Earth System Governance Network and
member of the Humanities and Social Sciences Expert Group of the Scientific Committee on Antarc-
tic Research.
Dr Kerryn Brent is a Lecturer in the Faculty of Law at the University of Tasmania in Hobart, Australia.
Dr Brent researches in the field of international environmental law, focusing on the governance of
geoengineering technologies. Her Ph.D. thesis examined the role of customary international law
for the governance of solar radiation management geoengineering. Dr Brent is continuing her
research on geoengineering governance with a new focus on marine geoengineering proposals.
Dr Wil Burns is a Co-Executive Director of the Forum for Climate Engineering Assessment in the
School of International Services at American University, and is based in Berkeley, California. He
also serves as non-residential scholar at American Universitys School of International Service and
a Senior Scholar at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Canada. His current
areas of research focus are: climate geoengineering; international climate change litigation; adap-
tation strategies to address climate change, with a focus on the potential role of micro-insurance;
and the effectiveness of the European Unions Emissions Trading System.
ORCID
Jeffrey McGee http://orcid.org/0000-0002-2093-5896
Kerryn Brent http://orcid.org/0000-0003-0983-2906
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... Should a CDR innovation club include ocean fertilization and alkalinization? Evidence of public opposition suggests a need to proceed cautiously (Fuentes-George 2017;McGee et al. 2018). That said, part of the hostile international response to early ocean fertilization experiments likely reflected concerns over corporate exploitation of the oceans. ...
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