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Guiding Principles

Guiding principles for ocean carbon dioxide removal studies*

Preamble: In response to our current climate crisis and since the Paris COP21, there has been widespread international agreement on limiting warming to <2C°.  Two recent IPCC reports have emphasized that the only pathway to limiting warming to 2° or less is to deploy both climate mitigation (emissions reduction) and intervention (Carbon dioxide removal) in order to achieve “net negative emissions.”

EXploring Ocean Iron Solutions (EXOIS) believes that enhancing the ocean’s natural biological carbon pump may be a responsible way to help sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide. However there remain many uncertainties about the ecological consequences, the efficiencies and permanence of enhanced carbon sequestration, and whether it is a practical approach to provide quantifiable climatic benefits.  Moving ahead requires deliberate field studies that should be conducted adhering to the following guidelines.


  1. Prioritize collective benefit: The collective benefit to humankind and the environment must be the primary purpose of research conducted to develop and evaluate the potential for climate intervention technologies to moderate or reverse human-induced climate change.
  2. Establish responsibility: Governments and public agencies must clarify responsibilities for and, when necessary, create new mechanisms to govern and oversee large-scale climate intervention research activities that have the potential or intent to significantly modify the environment or affect society. These mechanisms should build upon and expand existing structures and norms for governing scientific research and, in the event of damaging outcomes, establish who would bear the cost.
  3. Commit to open and cooperative research: Research should be conducted openly and cooperatively, preferably within a framework that has broad international support. Research activities with the potential to affect the environment in significant ways should be subject to risk assessment, considering the risks and their distribution associated with both the activity itself and the ongoing limits to understanding if the experiment is not conducted.
  4. Perform evaluation and assessment: Iterative, independent technical assessments of research progress on climate intervention approaches will be required to meet societal goals. Assessing any intended and unintended consequences, impacts, and risks will be critical to providing policymakers and the public with the information needed to evaluate the potential for climate interventions to be implemented as a complement to greenhouse gas reductions, mitigation, and adaptation strategies.
  5. Involve the public: Public participation and consultation in research planning and assessments, and in the development of decision-making mechanisms and processes, must be enabled to ensure consideration of the international and intergenerational implications of climate intervention strategies and activities.

* adapted from: Asilomar Scientific Organizing Committee (ASOC), 2010: The Asilomar Conference Recommendations on Principles for Research into Climate Engineering Techniques, Climate Institute, Washington DC