December 7, 2014
Recent articles from the Cornell Chronicle:
Expert offers feasible, statewide green energy plan [2014-11-20] - With humanity facing the inevitable rise in the average global surface temperature, Tony Ingraffea said green energy solutions – where New York state plays a leading role – could kindle a larger effort. “We’re in for some tough times with climate change,” said Ingraffea, the Dwight C. Baum Professor Emeritus in Engineering, in his keynote address at the fourth Cornell President’s Sustainable Campus Committee annual summit Nov. 18. Read more.
Land use looms as large factor in global warming [2014-12-03] - For the world’s deteriorating environment, don’t blame burning fossil fuels exclusively. Land use and land cover changes contribute about 40 percent to “radiative forcing,” a key underlying factor in global warming, according to Cornell environmental scientists writing in the latest Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (Dec. 3).
Cornell to buy all of proposed Black Oak Wind Farm’s energy [2014-12-08] - Making a stride toward reducing carbon emission, Cornell University has agreed to purchase all electricity generated by the proposed Black Oak Wind Farm in Enfield, New York, which is pending municipal approvals. This purchase represents 20 percent of the university’s total annual electricity use – enough energy to power approximately 5,000 homes.
November 25, 2014
For winter-hardened places like Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit and Beckley, West Virginia, the chance of measureable snow on the ground for Nov. 27 – this year’s date for Thanksgiving – is practically nil.
In Anchorage, Alaska, the chance of measureable snow on Nov. 27 fell dramatically between 1950-79 and 1980-2013, according to data examined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell. On the date of Nov. 27, from 1950 to 1979, there was snow on the ground in all but two of the years in which climate data were recorded. For the latter three decades, the probability of at least an inch of snow dropped to 79 percent.
Des Moines, Iowa, which once held an ample chance for the white stuff on Nov. 27 at 23 percent, holds a 9 percent probability in this most-recent three-decade period. Snowy Burlington, Vermont, dropped from 37 to 24 percent; Madison, Wisconsin, went from 33 to 21 percent; and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, fell from 37 to 26 percent.
Chances are in this new period that precipitation that once fell as snow, falls as rain. While Thanksgiving occurs late in autumn, these statistics support the idea of a warming globe, says Arthur T. DeGaetano, Cornell professor of earth and atmospheric sciences and director of the Northeast Regional Climate Center.
For Ithaca, New York, home to the climate center, the chances of a white Thanksgiving have dropped from 27 to 18 percent.
November 25, 2014
Explaining how Iceland tapped into the Earth for geothermal energy and captured water resources to develop renewable electricity, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, president of Iceland, told a Cornell audience how his country remade itself from one of Europe’s poorest into a nation that is financially and environmentally secure.
“It’s not really about energy, it’s about the economy,” said Grímsson. “It’s about the economic transformation of the country to realize that the move from fossil fuel over to clean energy is fundamentally good business – it’s fundamentally the road to prosperity and economic achievement.” …
Market forces drove out fossil fuel and coal, and geothermal and hydro energy replaced it. “This was done not on the basis of a grand plan; not on the basis of a visionary government policy from 30 or 40 years ago,” Grímsson said. “It has been done through localized, profit-driven initiatives and actions taken by small towns, communities, different sectors, companies and so on. The end result is an extraordinary transformation.”
November 5, 2014
Update [2014-12-18]: View Mike Hoffmann’s talk.
In this warming world of rising oceans, increased drought, melting ice caps, stronger storms, stranger weather and impending food problems, Mike Hoffmann, associate dean in College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, offers a TEDx talk, “Climate change: It’s Time to Raise Our Voices,” at the annual TEDx ChemungRiver 2014, held at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York, Saturday, Nov. 8.
While the program is officially sold out, Cornellians and others can catch the live stream here. Hoffmann will be the fourth speaker in the 11 a.m. time slot.
In personal terms, Hoffmann, a faculty fellow at Cornell’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, will explain why we must pay attention to climate change and what actions we must take.
November 5, 2014
Americans are undergoing a significant shift in thinking about climate change, but rising public awareness of a warming climate has not translated into action, according to new survey research.
In the recent 2014 Empire State Poll, 82 percent of New Yorkers say they believe climate change is happening. Downstate New Yorkers are even more convinced – 86 percent say climate change is real. However, less than 1 percent of the 800 New York state residents polled think climate change is the most important issue facing the state, and less than 20 percent would be willing to take political action.
With support from the Atkinson Center’s Rapid Response Fund, a multidisciplinary team of Cornell researchers set out to identify factors that may motivate Americans to mobilize for grassroots action on climate change. Mobilizing could include voting, serving on boards, contributing money, attending marches or demonstrations, and other forms of political participation and activism.
The researchers led by Shorna Allred, associate professor of natural resources, supplied the Empire State Poll with 19 survey questions. The questions explored relationships among belief in climate change, the respondent’s location and personal experience of climate change effects and willingness to take action against future climate change threats. The annual poll is administered by the Survey Research Institute at Cornell.
“We conducted this research because we think it is vital to understand thresholds for taking action on climate change – essentially, what it would take for people to act politically for climate change,” said Allred. “Climate change is a defining issue of this century, and sustained civil society mobilization is needed to create meaningful political change that results in large-scale climate mitigation and adaptation.”
November 5, 2014
Continuing an effort to reduce its carbon footprint, Cornell is proposing a 10-acre solar farm on university property in the town of Seneca, New York, where the university conducts agricultural research.
The proposed 2-megawatt solar farm will offset nearly 40 percent of the annual demand of Cornell’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York.
“The proposed solar farm will provide a long-term, stable and clean energy source for the agricultural experiment station here,” said Thomas Burr, associate dean for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and director of the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva. “We are very pleased to be able to play this major role in advancing Cornell’s overall commitment to sustainability.”
In September, the university opened the Cornell Snyder Road Solar Farm with 6,778 photovoltaic panels on an 11-acre plot that adjoins the Tompkins County Regional Airport in Lansing, New York. That 2-megawatt array will produce about 2.5 million kilowatts annually.
The solar photovoltaic panel array, pending approval from the town of Seneca and finalizing the developer agreement, will be Cornell’s second large-scale solar project. The proposed array will take advantage of NYSEG’s (New York State Electric and Gas) remote net metering program, meaning that Cornell will receive credit for the electricity the project adds to the grid to offset consumption at other Cornell locations.
In September, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced NY-Sun awards for large solar electric projects that will increase the solar capacity in New York state by more than 214 megawatts, a 68 percent increase over the amount of solar installed. The NY-Sun Initiative strives to expand the renewable energy market in New York state while working to bring down the costs of the technology.
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority administers the NY-Sun awards, and they will contribute about one-third of the project’s capital cost, while private developer Distributed Sun LLC, which will own and operate the array, will secure the remaining capital to build it. Cornell will buy the electricity produced through a power purchase agreement.
November 4, 2014
Despite being an environmental advocate and journalist for more than 30 years, former New York Times reporter Andrew Revkin has yet to find a way to eliminate his carbon footprint. Neither will most Americans anytime soon, said the Andrew D. White Professor-at Large during his talk with students at William Keeton House Oct. 30.
“We’re kind of stuck with our energy-intense lives. You can’t de-carbonize a 21st-century North American lifestyle – it’s just not possible right now,” he said.
Humanity’s best bet for climate change will be to focus on adaptability and preparedness, Revkin said. Though significant challenges lay ahead, a focus on adjustable agricultural practices and developing sustainable energy sources will prevent major catastrophe in the near future, he said.
Read the whole article. [Cornell Chronicle 2014-11-03]
October 31, 2014
Responding to climate change can’t wait: Two examples
Monday November 17, 2014: 07:00 PM – 08:30 PM
Tompkins County Public Library-Borg Warner Room
101 E. Green Street
Ithaca, New York 14850
Program features two speakers:
- Climate Change, Food and Farming in the Northeast, Alison Chatrchyan, Director, Cornell Institute for Climate Change and Agriculture;
- Slowing, Sinking and Spreading Water in Tompkins County in the Face of Climate Change, Scott Doyle, Senior Planner, Tompkins County Planning Department.
Organized by the League of Women Voters of Tompkins County and co-sponsored by CCE-Tompkins.
Free and open to the public.
October 29, 2014 The Daily Planet: A Journalist Reviews the Bidding after 30 Years of Exploring Environmental Science from the Amazon to the Arctic
Andrew Revkin, A.D. White Professor-at-Large, a media professional and an academic whose expertise focuses on multi-disciplinary topics spanning a range of environmental issues and their communication to the public.
Friday, October 31, 2014, 4:00 pm, Morison Room, Seeley Mudd Hall
In conjunction with the Biogeochemistry Seminar.
Identifying the sources of anthropogenic climate change using global models
Dan Ward, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Cornell University
Tuesday, November 4, 2014, 12-1 pm
EAS special seminar
October 23, 2014
From Natalie M. Mahowald, Professor, Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Faculty Fellow, Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, Cornell University:
Next semester we’ll be offering a seminar on climate change solutions, which will be open to graduate students and undergrad juniors and seniors:
BEE/EAS 4940 Seminar: Climate Change Solutions (Hess/Mahowald)
- Grading Basis: Student Option
- Credits: 3
- Enrollment limited to: junior or higher standing.
- Seminar 101: MW 12:20-1:35 MW (Bradfield 1102)
- Enrollment Cap: 25
- Grading: Students will be graded 30% on discussions, classroom participation and weekly presentations, 30% weekly group papers, 40% final group paper.
The course will consider the technical, physical climate, ecological, economic, human health, ethical and governance issues associated with different climate change “solutions” including mitigation, adaptation and geoengineering. Students will form groups and chose one solution and consider the solution in the light of guest lectures across the Cornell campus. For most of the course, each week there will be one theme, with a guest lecture (typically on Monday) presenting an important topic, while on Wednesday students will make group presentations and hand in papers considering these interactions with their climate solution. At the end, student groups will make a final presentation and paper considering their solution integrated across all aspects.
During 10 weeks in the middle of the semester, guest speakers will come into the course and speak on specific issues, for example, climate change impacts on natural ecosystems, renewables (e.g. algael biofuels or wind), economic impacts of climate change on agriculture, governance issues in climate change, ethical and philosophical issues, and future demography.
The goal will be to have student groups (3-5) cover a broad range of possible solutions including: renewable energy, clean coal, sea level adaptation efforts, solar radiation management, and carbon dioxide removal management methods. Students will have leeway in deciding which group they join.