Seminar Abstract

Philip Kithil

Tuesday, January 19, 2010
1:30-3:00

Using Wave-Driven Upwelling Pumps to Enhance the Ocean's Absorption of CO2: Feasible or Fantasy

Given the further delay in meaningful emissions reductions and other uncertainties produced by UNFCCC Copenhagen meeting, the need to act against rising atmospheric CO2 levels is even more critical. With atmospheric CO2 now at 390ppm and increasing by ~3-4ppm per year, we will be hard-pressed to stay below the 450ppm which is estimated to result in 2° C. warming. Moreover, a return to 350ppm (thought to be the highest level for a stable climate) can only be achieved by removing CO2 from the atmosphere. The practical approaches to do this in an expeditious manner fall to terrestrial biomass, or the oceans. Enhancing the ocean's role as a natural carbon sink could be accomplished by using wave kinetic energy to generate upwelling of nutrient-rich water, which in the presence of sunlight triggers photosynthesis and growth of phytoplankton, absorbing dissolved CO2 in the process. The increase in primary productivity would allow more atmospheric CO2 to dissolve into the upper ocean. This seminar will also address several mechanisms by which the absorbed CO2 is converted to organic and inorganic carbon which sinks to the mid ocean and seafloor. This presentation embodies a holistic perspective by explaining the economics and path to market, and setting in motion a plan which could remove one gigaton of carbon annually by 2019 and 4.5 gigatons annually by 2030. Finally, international governance and lifecycle issues will be addressed.