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Special Topics

ClimatePalooza 2014

Connecting scientists, scholars, policy makers, and the public to change the way we understand and discuss climate issues.


Below you will find a list of special topics that deserve special attention. If you would like information on topics that are not listed below, or would like to suggest content for any of these topics, please contact us.

Aerosol Masking: Particulates, particles in the air such as soot and dust, naturally scatter in the atmosphere and reflect sunlight. This process, known as aerosol masking, serves to offset as much as 10% of the warming effects of greenhouse gases.

Canadian Oil Sands: Crude bitumen (or oil sands) is a semi-solid form of petroleum. Currently, it is estimated that about 180 billion barrels of oil sands (out of a worldwide proven reserve of about 250 billion barrels) are in located in Canada. Bitumen can be converted to oil by a chemical process that generates over 10% more greenhouse gases than current petrochemical refinery methods. This makes oil sands and Canada major players in the future of climate change response.

Fukushima/Nuclear Power/Tsunamis: The failure of the Fukushima Daiishi nuclear power facility in Japan on March 11, 2011 following the tsumani that struck Japan’s coast was a major event impacting climate change response. Fukushimi made people relook at the issue of nuclear power safety and question the potential viability of nuclear power as a safe alternative to fossil fuel energy.

Hydraulic Fracturing/”Fracking”: Fracking is the injection of fluids into bedrock to break it up (as the fluids fill the micro-cracks and cause them to expand). Fracking is bedrock with natural gas deposits can help release otherwise hard to get to pockets of methane. Since 1988, fracking has created a resurgence in natural gas production in the United States and other areas of the world. Fracking is significant in climate change progress because (1) the process of fracking releases previously trapped methane directly into the atmosphere (perhaps 10% of fracked gas escapes capture for man’s uses) and (2) fracking potentially pollutes groundwater (mainly through unregulated injection fluids).

Iron Seeding: There are areas of the oceans that are naturally deficient of certain trace minerals otherwise necessary for robust planktonic growth. Some people believe that artificially “seeding” these areas with the deficient minerals (e.g., spreading iron filings in an iron deficient stretch of ocean) can act as a fertilizer for the growth of plankton. The growth of plankton sequesters greenhouse gases (i.e., plants use CO2), and, when plankton die, much of the sequestered CO2 is stored for long periods as the dead plankton sinks to great depths. This process is a test of John Martin’s iron hypothesis. Martin once jokingly opined, “Give me a half tanker of iron, and I will give you an ice age.” Iron seeding is controversial largely because no one knows if there are significant unknown, unintended consequences to such actions.

Keystone Pipeline: This pipeline is a large infrastructure proposed to cross the American heartland from the Canadian border to the east Texas refining and shipping region. The pipeline is designed to transport oils sands, mainly from Canada, to the Houston area for refining and shipment to oil importing nations. The pipeline is controversial for its many environmental impact implications.


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