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Using Oceans to Fight Global Warming?

Co Authors:

Joshua D. Hartman
Department of Chemistry
University of California, Riverside

Jack F. Eichler
Department of Chemistry
University of California, Riverside


This problem-based case study explores the scientific issues surrounding the use of large scale iron fertilization as a means of decreasing atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide.  A PowerPoint presentation introduces a New York Times article about a California businessman who chartered a fishing boat to dump 100 tons of iron dust into the Northern Pacific Ocean as a "state-of-the-art study." This was done without consulting scientific or political authorities. Students are then given two primary literature articles selected to help them understand the application of acid base chemistry and chemical equilibrium to an interesting issue connected to both the global economy and global climate change. This case study is designed for a second semester/second quarter general chemistry course, and is generally presented after the units on chemical equilibrium and acid/base chemistry have been covered. It could also be adapted for high school advance chemistry courses, non-majors introductory chemistry courses at the university level, and/or introductory courses in analytical or environmental chemistry.

  • Highlight the relevance of chemistry to current world issues.
  • Apply basic chemical knowledge to complex, multifaceted problems.
  • Develop the ability to critically analyze primary literature and draw conclusions based on the data and evidence contained therein.
  • Develop the ability to communicate scientific and technical concepts in both written and verbal form.
  • Improve the development of fundamental chemistry skills such as analyzing chemical equilibrium, dimensional analysis, and determining pH.
Keywords: Chemical reactions; chemical equilibrium; acid-base chemistry; climate change; carbon sequestration; global warming; iron fertilization; ocean acidification; oceans
Topical Area: Policy issues, Scientific argumentation
Educational Level: Undergraduate lower division
Formats: PDF, PowerPoint
Type/Method: Analysis (Issues), Dilemma/Decision, Journal Article, Problem-Based Learning
Language: English
Subject Headings: Chemistry (General)   Environmental Science   Earth Science   Marine Science / Oceanography  
Date Posted: 7/25/2014
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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