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Your research paper

The theme for your research paper will be Climate change solutions.

We basically have three choices, mitigation, adaptation, and suffering. We're going to do some of each.

The question is what the mix is going to be. The more mitigation we do, the less adaptation will be required, and the less suffering there will be.

-John Holdren, 2007, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Assistant to the President [Obama] for Science and Technology

You'll research a solution related to mitigation or adaptation.

Our use of fossil fuels is so entwined in so much of modern industrial society, that there is no single silver bullet to solve climate change...

But there is "silver buckshot" (Katharine Hayhoe): Many partial solutions that together add up.

And those partial solutions are already available. We don't need new technology, we need to mobilize political will to use them.

So, one aspect of your research paper will be to learn from someone's experience of trying out your solution.


Adaptation is "the act or process of changing to better suit a situation" (Merriam-Webster)
Williamson Daily News - Officials deem Williamson's flood walls in good condition.

With respect to climate change, this means making changes to reduce consequences and impacts (without addressing the underlying problem). Making infrastructure more resilient overlaps with mitigation.

Some possible topics

  • Flooding: The Dutch approach / reforming insurance / building codes in flood-prone areas / buyouts
  • Fire: building codes / indigenous practices / goats!
  • Training for jobs in longer-term sustainable industries.
  • Urban heat islands: Trees / reflective / building design
  • Justice and inequality: assistance for non-polluting countries / pollution / food waste & hunger / work conditions in extreme heat


...means addressing the roots of a problem.

Mitigation includes:

  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Investing in new energy-generation technology.
  • Conservation.

The general outlines of what needs to be done is well summarized in Gain not pain (CarbonTracker).

Two sources for topics:

Additional topic ideas

  • Nuclear energy: France / Japan
  • Buildings: Sweden / NY / Ithaca's financing of insulation
  • Transportation: Urban design / ITDP and Bus Rapid Transit / electric vehicle incentives
  • Wind: Denmark collaborating with Norway
  • Biofuels: Brazil
  • Geothermal: Iceland
  • Cap and Trade: China / CA / Acid rain and $SO_2$ in the US
  • Carbon taxes & markets: British Columbia / Ireland
  • Carbon credits: for farmers for sequestering carbon in the soil / for maintaining forests / planting mangroves
  • Population growth: China / Italy
  • Financing renewables: Kenya / Bangladesh / "Pay as you go" / microgrids / co-ops / community solar / leasing roofs
  • Government programs: Net metering / Feed-in Tariffs / Tax incentives
  • Carbon capture & storage
  • Land stewardship: indigenous control vs national parks

Sources & Sinks

We'll use Project Drawdown's concepts and accounting of Carbon (equivalent) sources and sinks. We used these slides from their Climate 101 resources:

Project Drawdown publishes their research into solutions to climate change. The solutions fall into 3 categories:

  • Reducing sources of greenhouse gases,
  • Supporting nature’s “sinks” for storing carbon, and
  • Centering equality in global action. This category includes health and education solutions which address inequalities, such as educating girls, and making contraception widely available, which also have consequences for carbon emissions.

This diagram shows the carbon-equivalent GHG emissions, and natural sinks, which already draw carbon out of our atmosphere: