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January 30, 2024

WHOI Board Chair Paul Salem Gives $25 Million for Ocean-based Climate Solutions

Paul Salem (Photo: WHOI)

Paul Salem (Photo: WHOI)

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) announced a $25 million gift to support ocean-based climate solutions from the chair of the Institution’s board of trustees, Paul Salem. 

Salem’s commitment brings the total funding received by WHOI over the past three years for ocean and climate research to more than $85 million. A growing focus of these efforts is the advancement of environmental monitoring, reporting, and verification (eMRV) capabilities to keep pace with a booming market for carbon credits, some of which rely on carbon capture by the ocean.

“There is a tidal wave of “blue carbon” solutions to climate change on the horizon, some proven, but most completely novel and in need of testing to investigate their safety and effectiveness,” said WHOI President and Director Peter de Menocal. “The ocean can help us avert a climate crisis, but we need to also ensure the long-term health of marine ecosystems and the communities that rely on ocean resources. This far-sighted gift will help us stay ahead of what is already a billion-dollar industry and inject some much-needed reality into the carbon market.”

Existing ocean-based solutions could account for more than one-third of the interventions needed to avoid exceeding the 2°C warming threshold laid down in the Paris Climate Agreement. In addition, methods that leverage the ocean’s chemical and biological processes could, if proven and deployed at-scale, supplement these efforts, but only if humanity also rapidly cuts greenhouse gas emissions.

Recent funding announcements signal a long overdue shift in attention into the role of the ocean in addressing climate change. Last year’s U.N. Climate Conference in Dubai, COP28, saw nearly $500 million in new ocean and climate-related funding commitments from sources including Bezos Earth Fund and the Ocean Resilience and Climate Alliance (ORCA)—a new consortium of climate and ocean institutions announced by Bloomberg Philanthropies at COP28 Ocean Pavilion—to advance ocean-based climate solutions and ensure the health and vitality of the ocean.  

“I am very pleased that my commitment will accelerate efforts by WHOI to improve humanity’s vital understanding of the ocean,” said Salem. “More than two-thirds of our planet is ocean and, so if we want to solve climate change, we must invest in innovative ocean-based solutions that give us more eyes in the ocean in order to help us meet this generational challenge. WHOI is uniquely positioned to play a leading role in efforts to do exactly this.”

In addition to Salem’s gift, recent funding from the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP), as well as gifts from individuals, foundations, and corporations will support a growing ecosystem of fundamental and applied scientific research and engineering development at WHOI. These build on existing capabilities such as the National Science Foundation-funded Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) and the international Argo network of autonomous profiling floats. Funding from Salem, NOPP, DOE and other sources expand on these existing programs, in part by supporting investigations of new marine carbon dioxide removal (mCDR) projects, including ocean alkalinity enhancement and ocean iron fertilization, and by building networks that incorporate machine learning, AI, and data systems to track and verify mCDR efforts.

“We urgently need the science to ensure this can be done safely at scale,” said de Menocal. “We’re humbled by the generosity and foresight of Paul’s gift, and grateful for all the support we’ve received to ensure that science will lead the race for solutions to our global climate crisis.”

The February 2024 edition of Marine Technology Reporter is focused on Oceanographic topics and technologies.
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