February 26, 2017
New tool gives apple farms hope in fight against spring freezes [Cornell Chronicle 2017-02-24] - This February’s warm weather is nice in the Northeast, but apple farmers may pay a price if winter roars back. To help growers assess precarious temperatures in turbulent springs, the Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions has developed a new Apple Freeze Risk decision tool. “I think the warm weather we’re seeing this week may push the apple trees into vulnerable stages,” said Art DeGaetano, professor of earth and atmospheric sciences and director of Cornell’s Northeast Regional Climate Center. Read more.
Climate change in Vietnam spurs students to speak up [Cornell Chronicle 2017-02-22] - Ten Cornell students spent two weeks of their winter break on a journey through Vietnam, listening to farmers and community members, and seeing the effects of climate change firsthand. The trip was part of an interdisciplinary course, “Climate Change Awareness and Service Learning in the Mekong Delta,” led by Michael Hoffmann and Thúy Tranviet. In the fall, the students took classes that introduced them to global climate change and Vietnamese language, culture and history. Read more.
Cornell helps Fijians use eyes in the sky for climate studies [Cornell Chronicle 2017-02-21] - To help Fijian scientists track oceanic climate change for their islands in the sun, Cornell’s Bruce Monger unveils eyes in the sky: satellite remote sensing. “Increased storms and rising sea levels loom darkly over South Pacific nations and I want to help them improve their satellite observational capabilities,” said Monger, lecturer in earth and atmospheric science. “Scientists in this region must understand climate change threats, in order to better plan for adaptation and mitigation efforts.” Read more.
February 17, 2017
At the request of Provost Michael Kotlikoff, the Cornell Senior Leaders Climate Action Group last fall submitted its report exploring the feasibility and costs of energy and heating options for the Ithaca campus to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035. Here, Kotlikoff discusses the report and the university’s next steps.
What are your reactions to the report?
As I expressed to the Senior Leader Climate Action Group members in a recent letter, I am grateful for their leadership in developing the options report. Creating this detailed financial analysis of climate-neutrality options for our campus was no small task. The report provides an essential menu of options that enable us to make decisions for achieving climate neutrality based on actual costs in relation to our academic mission.
As a large research institution with energy-intensive facilities in a cold climate, we face significant challenges to the elimination of our carbon footprint. However, Cornell has a history of addressing great challenges, and this report provides us with the best thinking of our faculty and staff on how to achieve this goal. I am particularly pleased to see, in addition to the innovative technical approach to heating our campus, more local recommendations that engage all of us. As a community, we must take local as well as institutional action to decrease fossil fuel consumption and increase clean energy production. The report highlights that “business as usual” is not an option for achieving carbon neutrality, and it highlights specific actions that the university should pursue. But I would also stress the importance of each of us endeavoring to lower our carbon footprint.
February 15, 2017
Maize study finds genes that help crops adapt to change - [Cornell Chronicle 2017-02-14] - A new study, published Feb. 6 in Nature Genetics, analyzed close to 4,500 maize varieties – called landraces – bred and grown by farmers from 35 countries in the Americas to identify more than 1,000 genes driving large-scale adaptation to the environment. “With global climate change over the next century, we can directly use this information to figure out what genes are important” to greatly speed up breeding efforts of maize, said senior author Edward Buckler, a research geneticist at the USDA-Agricultural Research Service and adjunct professor of plant breeding and genetics at the Institute for Genomic Diversity at Cornell. “We’re tapping the wisdom of farmers over the last 10,000 years to make the next century’s corn.”
Renewable fuels alone can’t stop climate change [Cornell Chronicle 2017-02-07] - In discussions about climate change, many people seem to think the only real problem is replacing fossil fuels, and once that’s done nothing much really needs to change. “That’s not only false, it’s a really dangerous way of thinking,” said Karen Pinkus, professor of Romance studies and comparative literature in the College of Arts and Sciences. Her new book, “Fuel: A Speculative Dictionary,” works to undo the assumption that all we have to do is scale up renewable fuels on the free market “and then everything will be rainbows and unicorns,” she said.
Pope’s picture spurs Republicans to shift climate views [Cornell Chronicle 2017-01-24] - After Pope Francis framed climate change as a moral issue in his second encyclical, conservative Republicans shifted and began to see that environmental dilemma in the same way, according to a new study led by Cornell communication researchers.
Microbiome experts to speak at World Economic Forum [Cornell Chronicle 2017-01-17] - Daniel Buckley and Angela Douglas of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Ilana Brito of the College of Engineering will share their research at an IdeasLab session on Jan. 18 focused on microbiome science, joining their three areas of expertise to form a fuller picture of the way microbes affect human lives. Learning how microbes interact with plants, or affect water and air, will be key to dealing with a changing climate, Buckley said.
Weather trends spur new ways to farm [Glens Falls Post Star 2017-01-12] - Call it climate change or not, the fact is the local weather has changed, said Laura McDermott, regional agriculture specialist for Cornell Cooperative Extension. “If they can predict the changes, whatever the cause, there’s lots of things they can do,” she said in lead up to SUNY Adirondack program where Michael Hoffman, executive director of the Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions, will speak. The free event is 7 p.m. Jan. 26 at SUNY Adirondack.
February 4, 2017
Cornell University Climate Change Seminar: Perspectives on the Climate Change Challenge
Spring 2017: February 6 to May 8
Mondays: 2:55-4:10 P.M., B25 Warren Hall
Free and Open to the Public
To view online, Register for Webinar in advance
This university-wide seminar provides important views on the critical issue of climate change, drawing from many perspectives and disciplines. Experts from both Cornell University and other universities will present an overview of the science of climate change and climate change models, the implications for agriculture, ecosystems, and food systems, and provide important economic, ethical, and policy insights on the issue. The seminar is being organized and sponsored by the Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering, the Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions, and the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. The seminar is free and open to the Cornell and Ithaca Community at large, and will be recorded.
January 8, 2017
Wait your turn, cows. Cornell now milks the sun for energy. The university formally opened three additional solar farms in December that will generate large amounts of electricity and help the campus achieve its carbon neutrality goals.
“We’re making substantial, meaningful progress on Cornell’s Climate Action Plan – and one way is to obtain more electricity from solar power,” said Sarah Zemanick, director of the Campus Sustainability Office.
One of the new solar farms is located at Cornell’s Ruminant Center in Harford, New York – home to about 500 research cows and other farm animals. Sited on poor agricultural land, the facility, which opened Dec. 20, features 20 acres of 9,333 photovoltaic panels that annually will produce 3.2 million kilowatt hours and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 610 metric tons.
The two other solar farms went live Dec. 30 at the Cornell Agricultural Experiment Station at Musgrave Research Farm in Ledyard, New York. The combined Musgrave East and Musgrave West facilities, each with 9,044 photovoltaic panels, will produce about 6.5 million kilowatt hours annually, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 1,220 metric tons.
December 1, 2016
Cornell Silicon Valley and Atikinson Center for a Sustainable Future Present:
Climate Change and Mitigation Strategies
December 15, 2016
6:30pm to 9:00pm
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
One Market Plaza, Spear Street Tower, Suite 1900
San Francisco, CA 94105
Slowing global climate change and mitigating its effects are among the greatest challenges facing our generation. Cornell University, its alumni, and its partners are attacking climate change from multiple fronts. The new director of Cornell’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future will frame the issues. Our panelists will discuss what climate models are telling us, as well as what we can do to move forward—from sustainable agriculture strategies to technological solutions for renewable energy and clean water.
- Toby Ault, Assistant Professor, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
- Johannes Lehmann, Professor, School of Integrative Plant Science, Soil and Crop Sciences Section
- Nancy Sutley ’84, Chief Sustainability and Economic Development Officer for Los Angeles Dept of Water and Power
Moderated by: David Lodge, Francis J. DiSalvo Director, Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, and Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
November 28, 2016
Recent articles from the Cornell Chronicle:
Ambassador to Morocco briefs COP22 students [2016-11-17] - Dwight Bush ’79, the U.S. ambassador to Morocco, spoke to Cornell students attending the 22nd Conference of the Parties – known as COP22 – an international meeting (Nov. 7-18) in Marrakech addressing the problems of climate change. Bush, appointed as ambassador by President Barack Obama in 2014, discussed Morocco as a regional leader in sustainability, with ambitious renewable energy goals and possessing some of the world’s largest solar energy installations. Read more.
Microalgae create green fuel, reduce food insecurity [2016-11-21] - Taken from the bottom of the marine food chain, microalgae may soon become a top-tier contender to combat global warming, as well as energy and food insecurity, according to a study by researchers associated with the Cornell Algal Biofuel Consortium, published in the journal Oceanography (December 2016). “We may have stumbled onto the next green revolution,” said Charles H. Greene, professor of earth and atmospheric sciences, and lead author of the new paper, “Marine Microalgae: Climate, Energy and Food Security From the Sea.” The study presents an overview to the concept of large-scale industrial cultivation of marine microalgae, or ICMM for short. Read more.
Bacterial mechanism converts nitrogen to greenhouse gas [2016-11-18] - Cornell researchers have discovered a biological mechanism that helps convert nitrogen-based fertilizer into nitrous oxide, an ozone-depleting greenhouse gas. The paper was published online Nov. 17 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “The first key to plugging a leak is finding the leak,” said Kyle Lancaster, assistant professor of chemistry and chemical biology, and senior author on the research. “We now know the key to the leak and what’s leading to it. Nitrous oxide is becoming quite significant in the atmosphere, as there has been a 120 percent increase of nitrous oxide in our atmosphere since pre-industrial times.” Read more.
November 20, 2016
Two moral values most highly rated by liberals predict willingness to make lifestyle changes to avert climate change, according to Cornell research. The findings also suggest that a moral value rated more highly by conservatives may foster intention to act on climate change.
A new multidisciplinary study suggests moral values highly rated by liberals — namely, compassion and fairness — influence willingness to make personal choices to mitigate climate change’s impact in the future. Valuation of purity, which is highly rated by conservatives, also appears to have a positive effect, though not as pronounced as compassion and fairness. The other moral values of in-group loyalty and authority – both more highly valued by conservatives – were not associated with willingness to take action.
Those insights from a group of four researchers – Janis Dickinson, professor of natural resources; Poppy McLeod, professor of communication; Robert Bloomfield, the Nicholas H. Noyes professor of management and professor of accounting; and Shorna Allred, associate professor of natural resources – were published Oct. 19 in PLOS One. While prior research has investigated the relationship between moral values and environmental attitudes, this work extends this investigation to intentionality with respect to changes in environmental behavior.
November 13, 2016
Interim President Hunter Rawlings gave students credit for propelling the university into action at the President’s Sustainable Campus Committee annual summit Nov. 10.
“During my years as president – the first time – the students of Kyoto Now, now known as Climate Justice Cornell, pushed us – so you see this started with students really – pushed us to try harder to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Rawlings in his keynote address.
Rawlings said Cornell students “show a tremendous awareness of sustainability issues … and they show a steadily increasing passion toward sustainability as part of their studies and, more importantly, as part of their lives.”
More recent climate change news from the Cornell Chronicle:
Soil scientist speaks on land degradation at COP22 [2016-11-10] - In a presentation to global leaders battling issues of climate change and feeding a burgeoning world population, Dawit Solomon, Cornell senior research associate in crop and soil science, explained food security solutions – such as adding biochar to poor agricultural soil – to combat Earth’s atmospheric warming.
Grant to aid study of microbes’ role in soil carbon cycle [2016-11-10] - Microorganisms in the soil produce about seven times more carbon dioxide (CO2) every year than all human sources combined. Ideally, the release of CO2 from soils is balanced by CO2 consumed by plants. Very little is known about soil microbes or how they will respond to climate and environmental changes. A project led by Cornell researchers to better understand soil microbes and their role in the carbon cycle has received a three-year, $3.59 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.
November 6, 2016
Panel outlines action for campus carbon neutrality by 2035 [Cornell Chronicle 2016-11-2] - With a plan to harness the wind, sun, water and the Earth’s heat, a panel from the Senior Leaders Climate Action Group (SLCAG) explained to the Cornell community Oct. 31 how the campus could become carbon neutral by 2035. They stepped through the financial analysis and feasibility report that was released in October. “We need to heat and power a ‘Research I’ institution, and we are power hungry,” said Lance Collins, the Joseph Silbert Dean of Cornell Engineering and co-chair of SLCAG. He outlined Cornell’s carbon footprint challenges, which include designing a campus heating system that can accommodate Ithaca’s extreme weather conditions. The current low cost of fossil fuel makes it difficult to justify future renewable energy projects, Collins said, but the university aims to reduce campus energy demand and increase the number of high-performance buildings. As for fossil fuel energy sources, he explained, “The goal is to drive this to zero.” Read more.
New model suggests scrubbing CO2 from the atmosphere [Cornell Chronicle 2016-10-26] - New Cornell research suggests an economically viable model to scrub carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to thwart runaway, point-of-no-return global warming. The researchers propose using a “bioenergy-biochar system” that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in an environmental pinch, until other removal methods become economically feasible and in regions where other methods are impractical. Their work appeared in the Oct. 21 edition of Nature Communications. Read more.
Colorado River’s dead clams tell tales of carbon emission [Cornell Chronicle 2016-10-27] - Scientists have begun to account for the topsy-turvy carbon cycle of the Colorado River delta – once a massive green estuary of grassland, marshes and cottonwood, now desiccated dead land. “We’ve done a lot in the United States to alter water systems, to dam them. The river irrigates our crops and makes energy. What we really don’t understand is how our poor water management is affecting other natural systems – in this case, carbon cycling,” said Cornell’s Jansen Smith, a doctoral candidate in earth and atmospheric sciences. Smith is lead author of “Fossil Clam Shells Reveal Unintended Carbon Cycling Consequences of Colorado River Management,” published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, Sept. 28. Read more.
New video highlights Cornell’s multi-faceted approach to sustainability - From creating to implementing real-world solutions, Cornell University is leading the way toward a more sustainable future.