BR.20.015 – CO2-OCEAN

Route: The blue route: water as a pathway to innovation and sustainable growth

Cluster question: 012 How do the seas and oceans function, and what role will they play in the future?

Ongoing anthropogenic CO2 emissions increasingly affect our planet. In the scientific community, there is broad consensus on the severe impact of elevated CO2 concentrations on our climate (e.g. global warming, ocean acidification and sea-level rise). By means of the Paris 2015 agreement, many countries have committed to mitigation plans for future emission that limit global warming to 1.5 °C. However, the time window to reduce CO2 emissions is narrow (a few decades) and the implementation of such measures at the global scale poses challenges. Consequently, there is an increasing need to also explore so-called negative CO2 emission measures: methods to actively withdraw CO2 from the atmosphere. Based on the current distribution of carbon between the different natural reservoirs, negative carbon emissions should focus on the oceans, which currently hold 95% of the global active carbon, including 30% of the additional carbon already put into the atmosphere by mankind since the industrial revolution. The remaining 5% is divided between atmosphere, soil and biosphere and clearly could never accommodate the additional carbon storage necessary to mitigate global warming. However, before such measures (which would have to be implemented at an enormous scale) can be considered, in-depth knowledge of the global carbon cycle (the exchange of CO2 and other forms of carbon between atmosphere, biosphere, oceans and other components of the climate system), is urgently needed, to prevent potential negative side-effects. We propose to hands-on investigate oceanic carbon cycling in a changing world, assessing impacts of changes in carbon chemistry on the biology and chemistry of the oceans, and explore and evaluate the potential of carbon mitigation measures involving the ocean. The proposed research addresses questions from the following routes: The Blue Route, Energy transition, and Sustainable development goals for inclusive global development from the Dutch NWA.


Biological Pump, Carbon Cycle, Carbon Dioxide, Marine Sciences, Oceans

Other organisations

Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (RUG), Technische Universiteit Delft (TUD), Utrecht University (UU), UvA, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU)


Organisation Royal NIOZ (NIOZ)
Name Prof. Dr. Gert-Jan Reichart