Oceans worth up to $222 bln annually in CO2 capture

Jun 05, 2014
Ocean waves come ashore near a nuclear reaction facility in San Clemente, CA, March 15, 2012

By absorbing carbon emissions from the atmosphere, the seas avert climate damage worth up to $222 billion (163 billion euros) every year, according to an estimate released on Thursday.

Fish catches are worth another $16 billion annually, according to the report by a non-governmental watchdog, the Global Ocean Commission, which hopes that by setting an economic price on the value of international waters, the bounty will be better managed.

The study, coinciding with World Environment Day, was released ahead of two days of ministerial-level talks in Bonn that will seek to remove roadblocks towards a new post-2020 UN climate agreement.

The ocean naturally takes in (CO2) though microscopic marine organisms at the surface, which convert the gas to carbon.

The process prevents the gas from adding to global warming although it is also making the seas more acidic, which will have an impact on many ecosystems.

"While the science of in the high seas is still evolving, we estimate that nearly half a billion tonnes of carbon, the equivalent of over 1.5 billion tonnes of , are captured and stored by high-seas ecosystems annually," the report said.

A fisherman brings up the nets from the water off the coast of the Mediterranean village of Gruissan, France on May 5, 2014

"Based on current estimates of the economic cost of additional carbon in the atmosphere... we find that the value of storage by high-seas ecosystems ranges between $74 billion and $222 billion annually."

The report said nearly 10 million tonnes of fish are caught annually on high seas, translating into more than $16 billion in landed value.

It pointed to a hotchpotch of international laws and regulations governing the oceans, many of which were poorly enforced, or not at all. This encouraged pollution, waste and over-fishing.

"There is growing evidence that the ecosystem services provided by the high seas are of high social and economic value," said the report.

"The evidence also is clear that poor management of human activities on the high seas has eroded the natural wealth and productivity of high-seas ecosystems with negative economic and social consequences for all of us."

Explore further: Researchers call for better ocean stewardship

Related Stories

CO2 emissions +2.2% in 2012, driven by China and coal

Nov 19, 2013

Emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels and cement production reached a new high in 2012, rising 2.2 percent over 2011 due chiefly to an increase in coal-burning China, scientists said Tuesday.

Carbon emissions still growing when they must fall: report

Nov 19, 2013

Growth in global carbon emissions is slowing, but is still more than enough to increase global temperatures by more than 2C, according to a report released today by the Global Carbon Project. Carbon emissions increased by ...

US carbon pollution up two percent in 2013

Jan 13, 2014

A new government report says energy-related carbon dioxide pollution increased slightly last year after declining for several years in a row. The 2 percent increase was largely due to a small increase in ...

Researchers call for better ocean stewardship

May 16, 2014

It has been said that we know more about the surface of the moon than we do about our own planet's oceans. That especially applies to the deepest parts of our oceans – depths that are 200 meters or deeper.

Recommended for you

Study provides detailed projections of coral bleaching

6 hours ago

While research shows that nearly all coral reef locations in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico will experience bleaching by mid-century, a new study showing in detail when and where bleaching will occur shows ...

Germany restricts fracking but doesn't ban it

12 hours ago

The German cabinet drew up rules Wednesday on the hitherto unregulated technology of "fracking" in Germany, narrowly restricting its use, but stopping short of an outright ban.

Life in the poisonous breath of sleeping volcanos

13 hours ago

Researchers of the University Jena analyze the microbial community in volcanically active soils. In a mofette close to the Czech river Plesná in north-western Bohemia, the team around Prof. Dr. Kirsten Küsel ...

Eggs and chicken instead of beef reap major climate gains

14 hours ago

Beef on our plates is one of the biggest climate villains, but that does not mean we have to adopt a vegan diet to reach climate goals. Research results from Chalmers University of Technology show that adopting ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Bob Osaka
5 / 5 (1) Jun 06, 2014
Is anyone struck by the absurdity here? "Averting $222 billion in climate damage," what does that even mean? Money is a temporary human construct , promissory notes backed by the veracity of politicians. Economic "values" are not the same as physical values. Placing an economic value on the carbon cycle is akin to claiming ownership of a distant galaxy. Bankers, businessmen and their politicians saying something like, "Yes, the ocean is the mother and cradle of all life on the planet, but what has it done for me lately?"
How will the ocean be able to use this windfall profit? Use it to clean up all the floating plastic debris?
The values of this forum are in si units and fundamental constants along with conversions into imperial units. For example: adding one yottajoule to the Earth may cause clathrate hydrate to explode into the atmosphere with resultant cascade of runaway negative feedback ending human civilization. What's that in dollar values?
not rated yet Jun 23, 2014
Uh, scuse moi - fish don't absorb CO2, they breathe oxygen and exhale CO2. If they want less CO2 in the oceans, then they should encourage fishing.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.