Under water in the sea

Marine Carbon Sinks

Research Mission

The oceans contain more than 50 times as much carbon as the atmosphere. So far, they have made a significant contribution to mitigating the impact of anthropogenic CO2 by absorbing and storing about a quarter of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. However, the oceanic share of climate mitigation is  expected to decrease as warming, acidification, deoxygenation and other human-induced disruptions affect the ocean’s physical, chemical and biological capacity to absorb CO2.

This underlines the urgent need to reduce emissions. However all the strategies for limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees, as outlined in the IPCC Special Report of 2018, require the additional active removal of CO2 from the atmosphere (about 1 Gt CO2/year). Current scenarios discussed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change generally focus on land-based methods of CO2 removal, but these alone will hardly be sufficient to achieve the Paris climate goals. Our understanding of how oceans might be used as a path to decarbonisation is limited. However, given the urgency of the need for society to decide sustainable climate protection strategies, this question is of enormous social relevance.

The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) therefore intends to fund a research mission entitled “Marine Carbon Sinks in Decarbonisation Pathways”. This mission will investigate whether and to what extent oceans can play a significant and sustainable role in absorbing and storing CO2 from the atmosphere. Furthermore, it will identify the corresponding relationship with and impact on the marine environment, the Earth system and society.

The analysis and assessment of measures to increase CO2 uptake and storage by the ocean will consider both the risks and benefits and evaluate their potential as well as the economic, political, social and legal context and impacts. Achieving this calls for a transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary approach and intense dialogue with stakeholders. Providing concrete recommendations for action as well as rigorously implementing measures for knowledge transfer and data provision will ensure that the results can subsequently be used to inform politics and society.

The approval procedure for the mission “Marine Carbon Sinks in Decarbonization Pathways” has now been completed. The research mission has started on 1 August 2021. Link to the project website

Detailed text of the mission proposal “Research Mission Marine Carbon Sinks in Decarbonisation Pathways”:

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The federal government and the regional governments of the five Northern German federal states are supporting and funding the current establishment of the DAM. In addition, the DAM is supported by the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres.

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