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Is Blue Carbon The Climate Solution We've Been Looking For All Along?

Is blue carbon the climate solution we’ve been looking for all along?

Blue Carbon refers to the carbon that is sequestered in coastal and ocean ecosystems. Much like terrestrial forests sequester CO2, so do coastal plants such as mangroves, seagrass, and algae, as well as marine life. More focus on blue carbon as a climate solution is needed especially as the world is losing coastal ecosystems at a 400% rate faster than rainforests. These vital ecosystems need to be protected as we think through and act on climate solutions.

Courtesy of BFI Memefest

The Buckminster Fuller Institute (BFI) recently hosted an educational event to help spread awareness around the topic of Blue Carbon as a solution for climate change. BFI is a non-profit dedicated to advancing the work of R.B Fuller, a 20th-century inventor, and visionary focused on the development and deployment of solutions to radically advance human well being and the health of the planet’s ecosystems. 

The event leveraged the collective creativity of an environmentally conscious community to help to create memes and media to expose a wider audience to the power of putting carbon back into ocean and coastal ecosystems. 

We are all island people living on a blue ocean planet. 

So much of the conversation around reversing climate change revolves around planting trees and other terrestrial solutions that sequester carbon, yet with over 70% of the earth’s surface covered in water, the ocean is a main part of the carbon cycle and earth’s largest carbon sink.

Courtesy of BFI Memefest

It is estimated that the ocean has absorbed one-third of man-made carbon emissions since the start of the industrial revolution. Being treated as a dumping ground for mankind by taking on additional human-created CO2 emissions has come at a price, it’s been making our ocean more acidic and reducing its ability to continue to sequester carbon at the same levels. Blue Carbon is a big piece of the equation as it’s the ocean’s mechanism for carbon sequestration and why preserving existing ecological systems is so important.

Yet in spite of its importance to the carbon cycle and potential for positive and significant impact, Blue Carbon is one of the least known and funded climate solutions.

BFI is looking to change that, and in partnership with LIFT Economy recently completed a report on how best to scale the Blue Carbon movement

The Two Types of Blue Carbon

There are in fact two types of blue carbon: coastal blue carbon and oceanic blue carbon.

Coastal blue carbon consists of plants, trees, and ecosystems that exist along the coast and oceanic blue carbon refers to the open ocean and CO2 that is sequestered in the deep ocean floor and through marine life.

Together these species and plants play an important role in the carbon cycle and account for sequestration of one-third of global CO2 emissions, which is precisely why maintaining and restoring these critical ecosystems is so important.

Coastal Blue Carbon

The ecosystems that make up coastal blue carbon include mangrove forests, seagrass meadows, marshes, and kelp colonies. They sequester carbon in their roots, soils, and sediments at a 50-fold higher rate than land forests. 

Courtesy of BFI Memefest

Earthbanc has built a green investment and digital venture-backed banking platform that recently onboarded over 23,000 daily savers and borrowers in India to kick-off their Mangrove Moonshot, an idea that came out of an Xprize event. The project is situated in a community that lives on the edge of a vast mangrove forest. With Earthbanc, the community can monetize carbon payments through maintaining the forests which also provide a habitat for the Royal Bengal Tiger. Earthbanc’s Plus Account uses its blockchain platform to offset bank and card account emissions globally, and their Grow portfolio of investments issue green digital funds and bonds in Europe, UK, and soon the US to finance earth-positive projects around the world. With the Mangrove Moonshot, Earthbanc has plans to plant 20 billion mangroves all over the planet, with the aim of sequestering 20 gigatonnes of carbon, which is equivalent to planting 100 billion terrestrial trees.

Cascading Coastal Blue Carbon Benefits

Coastal blue carbon offers additional benefits above and beyond acting as an important carbon sink for the earth. With the threat of rising seas, coastal communities especially island nations need to protect their coastlines. Mangrove forests and kelp forests protect shores and increase resilience to extreme weather by acting as buffers against high rains, wind, and storm surges. Additionally, these ecosystems provide new sources of income for those communities through mariculture, seaweed farming, as well as a habitat for fish and wildlife to thrive, thus encouraging tourism.

Blue carbon plays an important part in ecosystem restoration. Coastal communities are losing their green shield against storm surges. We need to reverse the tide through regenerative investments. We’re excited to be moving blue carbon projects forward, to combat climate change, restore marine wildlife habitat and create liquid funds, enabling more regenerative projects to grow and flourish around the world.

Tom Duncan, Founder & CEO Earthbanc

Earthbanc is also democratizing ownership of its financial platform, and in the future will offer its seed round via a crowdfunding campaign, giving the public an opportunity to invest in a company that is committed to regenerating the planet and empowering people to be a force for change.

Oceanic Blue Carbon

Oceanic blue carbon refers to carbon that is stored in ocean marine life such as fish, sea turtles, and cetaceans such as whales and dolphins and the phytoplankton that they eat as well as the carbon that sinks to the ocean floor.

Ocean Carbon Cycle

The Ocean Carbon Cycle is made up of a complex ecosystem of marine life from whales to bony fish that consume phytoplankton, biomix the seawater’s nutrients through their swimming, consume other fish and excrete their waste back into the ocean. 

The Ocean Carbon Cycle. Credit: GRID ArendalCC BY-ND

At the surface of the ocean, phytoplankton reside, growing via photosynthesis, and absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere. That phytoplankton is then eaten by fish and sea mammals thus sequestering the CO2 in their bodies. The excretion of calcium carbonate of bony fish acts to balance the pH level of the ocean, helping to prevent ocean acidification caused by excess CO2. This cycle includes marine mammals who play a part in stirring nutrients to the surface, creating marine snow (organic material that falls to the ocean floor), storing carbon as biomass (in their bodies), and eventually becoming “deadfall carbon’ settling on the ocean floor and becoming food for the bottom of the ocean dwellers or part of the ocean floor sediment.

I never thought I would be writing about whale poop!

Did you know that whales poop in surface waters?

Neither did I!  Whale poop, also known as whale pump is a major contributor to the cycle and why we should be working to save whales. Whale pump produces nutrient-rich “flocculent fecal plumes” that support phytoplankton growth that is estimated to account for 2 million metric tons of carbon storage per year, the equivalent of 13,500 sq miles of forest. 

Courtesy of BFI Memefest

Memes Can Help Spread Awareness

Beyond being an awe-inspiring place of regeneration, beauty, and wonder, the ocean holds a critical component to our planetary survival. Creating memes as a means of telling this story is an innovative and fun way to spread the word about the importance of marine ecosystems and lead us to better conservation and funding for these precious life systems.

Now that you’ve learned everything you need to know about Blue Carbon (J/k there’s a lot more to learn!), go out and spread the word…or some memes or better yet make your own new memes!