Senators Introduce Bill to Combat Impacts of Climate Change

Protecting and Utilizing Blue Carbon, Mitigating Carbon in our Atmosphere

Surrounding Capitol Hill Ocean Week, Senate Oceans Caucus co-chairs U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today introduced legislation focused on protecting and utilizing blue carbon. The Blue Carbon for Our Planet Act highlights the habitats that continue to remove carbon out of our atmosphere, helping to combat the impacts of climate change. Blue carbon refers to carbon dioxide that is naturally captured and stored by the world’s ocean and coastal ecosystems—one of Earth’s ways of reducing carbon in our atmosphere. Specifically, the legislation will strengthen federal research on blue carbon, improve our understanding of how blue carbon ecosystems can advance larger climate goals, and set measurable targets for the protection and restoration of coastal blue carbon ecosystems.

The bill also directs the National Academies to study the potential for carbon storage in deep seafloor environments and assess available technologies and pathways to remove CO2 directly from the ocean through engineered or inorganic processes. The study would also consider the viability of utilizing kelp farming and coastal wetland restoration for carbon sequestration, including assessing what would be required to develop markets around blue carbon.

“Blue carbon ecosystems—like kelp, seagrass, salt marshes, and mangroves—play a critical role in protecting our shorelines from sea level rise and erosion, while storing an incredible amount of carbon—making them an important tool for addressing climate change. Blue carbon ecosystems can help to address the dramatic impacts Alaska is seeing from climate change, including coastal erosion and ocean acidification. In Alaska, we need to understand the potential of kelp and seagrass to capture and store carbon long-term, and take steps to safeguard these ecosystems,” said Senator Murkowski. “We have an opportunity to combat the physical impacts of climate change, and mitigate the amount of carbon in the atmosphere—a true win-win.”

“I’m pleased to join Senator Murkowski in introducing this bipartisan bill to preserve important, rapidly disappearing coastal wetlands,” said Whitehouse. “Tidal marshes, mangroves, seagrasses, and kelp forests provide a key line of defense against climate change, as they provide natural barriers to rising seas and remove vast amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.  The oceans are in trouble, and this legislation is timely and healing.”

The Blue Carbon for Our Planet Act would:

  • strengthen federal research on blue carbon;
  • create a national inventory of coastal blue carbon sources and their sequestration potential;
  • improve protections for existing blue carbon ecosystems;
  • restore and expand degraded coastal blue carbon ecosystems;
  • assess the potential containment of carbon dioxide in the deep seafloor environment; and
  • provide for the long-term stewardship and standardization of coastal blue carbon data.

Click here for legislation text.

Background: Companion legislation was previously introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Bill Posey (R-FL), Donald S. Beyer Jr. (D-VA), and Brian Mast (R-FL).