Adaptation and Mitigation

In light of the serious and potentially irreversible consequences of climate change, consideration is being given to initiatives that may reduce the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Ocean Climate scientists at DFO provide scientific advice on the different strategies that are being explored to mitigate the effects of climate change:

Ocean Geo-engineering

Ocean Geo-engineering:

In light of the serious and potentially irreversible consequences of climate change, consideration is being given to initiatives that may reduce the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. One such technique is ocean fertilization.

In theory, the distribution of a nutrient, such as iron, over a nutrient deficient area of an ocean stimulates the growth of phytoplankton, converting carbon dioxide to organic matter through photosynthesis. Although much of the current research has focused on ocean iron fertilization, other nutrients, such as nitrogen, urea and phosphates, are also being considered.

Canada is engaged in deliberations on the potential control of this activity through its participation in the London Convention/London Protocol (LC/LP). In May 2008, the Scientific and Legal Working Groups of the LC/LP were tasked with evaluating the issue of ocean fertilization. They recommended proceeding toward regulation of the activity.

Canada supports the LC/LP resolution to not allow ocean fertilization, with the exception of legitimate scientific research. The application of the precautionary approach at this point in time is appropriate first because wide scale commercialized ocean fertilization may pose a risk of serious persistent change to aquatic ecosystems and secondly, because there is a lack of scientific certainty as to the effectiveness of the process.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada led a science-based peer review to critically examine Ocean Fertilization. The report can be found here: Science Advisory Report on Ocean Fertilization.

DFO scientists working on geo-engineering science activities can be found here.

Offshore Renewable Energy

Offshore Renewable Energy:

Offshore renewable energy (ORE) is undergoing rapid development globally. Canada has the potential to become a leader in this field due to its massive resource potential on all three coasts. Currently, Canada is ranked 3rd in the world in the development of ORE technology.

Three main ORE resources are being developed/researched in Canada at this time:

  • Offshore Wind: Since the technology is virtually the same for onshore and offshore applications, offshore wind turbines are the most developed of the marine-based renewable energy resources. Several potential offshore wind sites on the North Coast of British Columbia have been identified as potential sites for development.
  • Tidal Current: Canada has sizeable tidal current energy resources, a renewable energy that has the distinct advantage of being reliable and highly predictable. Nunavut has by far the largest potential resource. Over 70% of Canada's tidal current energy resource lies within Hudson Strait, however there are significant logistical obstacles for extracting renewable energy in the north. While British Columbia has many potential sites, it is the East Coast, notably in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, that is aggressively pursuing tidal power initiatives in the Bay of Fundy.
  • Wave: The annual mean wave power offshore of Canada's Pacific coast totals roughly 37,000 MW, equivalent to over 55% of Canadian electricity consumption, while the annual mean wave power on the Atlantic coast sums to roughly 146,500 MW or more than double the current electricity demand. The wave energy available in winter is generally four to seven times greater than in summer. However, due to a variety of factors only a fraction of the available wave energy resource can be extracted and converted into useful power.

While the adoption of ORE sources may help offset climate change impacts, several environment issues still need to be explored and resolved:

  • Only a fraction of the available tidal current resource can be converted into useable energy without noticeable impact on tides and tidal flows;
  • The effect of underwater turbines on marine species, from shellfish to whales, is unknown;
  • The potential consequences on the fishing industry and other users are unclear;
  • Aesthetic concerns of the public (both visual and noise impacts) exist; and
  • The extraction of energy from tides and tidal flows can impact multiple aspects of an ecosystem's structure and function.

DFO has a significant role in not only addressing environmental issues, but also in providing oceanographic data from its monitoring programs to engineers whom are examining sites for their energy potential.

DFO scientists working on offshore renewable energy science activities can be found here.

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