News & Events

The latest climate change news from Cornell and beyond.


Public warmer on ‘climate change’ than ‘global warming’

Jonathon Schuldt

Jonathon Schuldt

Cornell Chronicle [2015-02-16]:

Stop someone on the street in the storm-battered Northeast (or Northwest or just about anywhere in between) this winter. Ask about “global warming” and you’d better be prepared for a heated debate. Ask about “climate change” and cooler heads may prevail.

The American public responds differently to questions about “climate change” and “global warming” – even while the media often conflate the two – a new study by Cornell and University of Southern California researchers reveals.

“A key finding is that the public perceives more scientific agreement on the issue of ‘climate change’ than ‘global warming,’” reports Cornell’s Jonathon Schuldt, who led the study examining a survey of 2,000 American adults from the comfort of his Department of Communication office (not from a snow-covered street corner). “Recent studies suggest that perceiving a scientific consensus is an important predictor of people’s support for new regulations that address the problem.”

Read the whole article.

‘Megadrought’ likely for western U.S. by end of century

Cornell Chronicle [2015-02-15]:

The consequences of climate change paint a bleak picture for the Southwest and much of America’s breadbasket, the Great Plains. A “megadrought” likely will occur late in this century, and it could last for three decades, according to a new report by Cornell and NASA researchers in the journal Science Advances (Feb. 12), an online publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“The results were striking. As a society, we’ve weighted the dice toward megadrought. Data clearly point to a high risk in the Southwest and Great Plains, as we continue to add carbon dioxide into our atmosphere,” said Toby Ault, Cornell associate professor of earth and atmospheric sciences. “However, if we manage to get serious about lowering greenhouse gases within the next 10 years, we could face a lower risk.”

With a drier future and higher regional temperatures amplifying possible late-century droughts, the situation presents a major adaptation challenge for managing the region’s water needs, explains Ault, who along with lead author Benjamin Cook and Jason Smerdon, both of NASA, published their new study, “Unprecedented 21st Century Drought Risk in the American Southwest and Central Plains Drought Risk in Western North America.”

Read the whole article.

In the news

 The future looks bright: In a winning effort, the Big Red men's hockey team scores against Harvard Jan. 23, under the new LED lights at Lynah Rink. (Photo: Patrick Shanahan/Cornell Athletics)

The future looks bright: In a winning effort, the Big Red men’s hockey team scores against Harvard Jan. 23, under the new LED lights at Lynah Rink.(Photo: Patrick Shanahan/Cornell Athletics)

New LED lights illuminate sports venues’ vibrancy [Cornell Chronicle 2015-01-29] – To fend off climate change and help to sustain the Earth, this is a slam dunk: the Department of Athletics and Physical Education has begun to install new LED lights at all campus athletic facilities including Lynah Rink, Bartels Hall, Newman Arena, the Friedman Wrestling Center and the Oxley Equestrian Center.

Video: CO2 at the Top of the World [CornellCast 2015-01-29] – Charles Greene and Dr. M. Sanjayan visit the carbon dioxide measuring station in Mauna Loa, Hawaii on the Showtime series about climate change, ‘Years of Living Dangerously.’ Greene is a professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Cornell.

How climate change is already affecting Cayuga County wineries [Auburn Citizen 2015-02-02] – Hans Walter-Peterson, team leader and viticulture extension specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Finger Lakes Grape Program, said the number of growing degree days — a measure of heat accumulation — has been steady until 2000, at which point it goes up “like a hockey stick.”

Queen Elizabeth to honor student for climate change work [Cornell Chronicle 2015-02-05] – Shamir Shehab, MPA ’16, is one of 60 exceptional community leaders chosen from across the British Commonwealth to receive the Queen’s Young Leaders Award, which recognizes young people ages 18-29 who work to support others, raise awareness and inspire change on issues including education, climate change, gender and disability equality, and mental health.

Upcoming seminars

Atmospheric Circulation and Surface Climate Response to Projected Arctic Sea Ice Loss
Dr. Lantao Sun from the National Center for Atmospheric Research
Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Seminar
Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 3:30pm to 4:30pm, 2146 Snee Hall
Refreshments will be served at 3:00pm in the Snee Hall Atrium.

How can agricultural and forest scientists contribute to national policy regarding air quality and greenhouse gas emissions? Three stories from the front lines
Peter Woodbury, Soil and Crop Sciences Section, Cornell University
School of Integrative Plant Science, Soil and Crop Sciences Section Seminar Series
Thursday, February 12, 2015, 12:20-1:10, 135 Emerson Hall

Skorton speeds campus carbon neutrality goal to 2035

David Skorton

David Skorton

Cornell Chronicle [2015-01-29]:

Cornell President David Skorton today released the report of the Climate Action Plan Acceleration Working Group (AWG), which recommends actions the campus should take to become carbon neutral by 2035.

“Nearly eight years ago, in response to the growing challenge of global climate change, I signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, pledging that Cornell would develop a plan to achieve climate neutrality, starting on our Ithaca campus, by 2050,” said Skorton in a statement. “Today, I again formally recognize the need to accelerate our efforts by embracing the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2035.”

Skorton explained that his decision to hasten the date was advocated by a December 2013 Cornell Faculty Senate resolution that called for an accelerated timetable to achieve campus carbon neutrality.

Read the whole article.

Atmospheric warming heats bottom of ice sheets, as well as the top

Mike Willis installing a Continuous GPS station at the Lynaes Peninsula in Eastern Greenland. The GPS is part of network designed to continuously weight the Greenland Ice Sheet. Photo by Thomas Nylen, NSF, 2007.

Mike Willis installing a Continuous GPS station at the Lynaes Peninsula in Eastern Greenland. The GPS is part of network designed to continuously weight the Greenland Ice Sheet. Photo by Thomas Nylen, NSF, 2007.

Cornell Media Relations Office [2015-01-21]:

A team of scientists led by Cornell University Earth and Atmospheric Sciences researcher Michael Willis, has published a new paper showing for the first time that meltwater from the surface of an ice cap in northeastern Greenland can make its way beneath the ice and become trapped, refilling a subglacial lake. This meltwater provides heat to the bottom of the ice sheet.

These groundbreaking findings provide new information about atmospheric warming and its affect on the critical zone at the base of the ice. The warmth provided by the water could make the ice sheet move faster and alter how it responds to the changing climate.

The research is detailed in a new paper published online by the journal Nature on Jan. 21. The paper was written by Willis, who is also an adjunct faculty member in the geological sciences department at UNC-Chapel Hill’s College of Arts and Sciences, along with co-authors Bradley Herried, Polar Geospatial Center, University of Minnesota; Michael Bevis, School of Earth Sciences at Ohio State University and Robin Bell, Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University.

Read the whole article.

View Mike Hoffmann’s TEDx talk online

On November 8, Mike Hoffmann, associate dean in College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, offered 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.

Hoffmann encourages us to become aware, accept the reality, and then act by raising our voices to address this grand challenge facing our generation … and those that follow.

Hoffman’s talk is now available online.

Students form nucleus for sustainability alliance


sustainability alliance meeting

Courtney Koelbel ’15, representing Cornell University Sustainable Design, reads suggestions Dec. 6 on possible governance procedures in the developing sustainability alliance.

Cornell Chronicle [2014-12-16]:

Passionate about strengthening sustainability, battling climate change and improving a polluted world, Cornell students packed a large Warren Hall meeting room Dec. 6 to begin forming an alliance of more than three dozen campus sustainability groups.

Over 100 students from across campus representing about 40 clubs congregated to contemplate strategy to link groups under one umbrella organization. “Our main purpose is uniting the [large variety of sustainability] clubs … We have already a huge presence on campus, so there’s something to be said about collective organizing,” said Emma Johnston ’16, co-president of Cornell Sustainability Hub.

Organizers of the new sustainability alliance discussed governance, the resources it may provide, how the group will help engage with nonmember students and a framework for communications. As individual clubs focus on various projects, the umbrella group – similar in scope to a sustainability congress, with representatives from each club – intends to organize itself by holding meetings and communicating with each other via social media.

Read the whole article.

Carbon-trapping ‘sponges’ can cut greenhouse gases

A scanning electron microscopy image of the amine sorbent.(Genggeng Qi)

A scanning electron microscopy image of the amine sorbent.(Genggeng Qi)

Cornell Chronicle [2014-12-15]:

In the fight against global warming, carbon capture – chemically trapping carbon dioxide before it releases into the atmosphere – is gaining momentum, but standard methods are plagued by toxicity, corrosiveness and inefficiency. Using a bag of chemistry tricks, Cornell materials scientists have invented low-toxicity, highly effective carbon-trapping “sponges” that could lead to increased use of the technology.

A research team led by Emmanuel Giannelis, the Walter R. Read Professor of Engineering in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, has invented a powder that performs as well or better than industry benchmarks for carbon capture. A paper with their results, co-authored by postdoctoral associates Genggeng Qi and Liling Fu, appeared Dec. 12 in Nature Communications.

Used in natural gas and coal-burning plants, the most common carbon capture method today is called amine scrubbing, in which post-combustion, carbon dioxide-containing flue gas passes through liquid vats of amino compounds, or amines, which absorb most of the carbon dioxide. The carbon-rich gas is then pumped away – sequestered – or reused. The amine solution is extremely corrosive and requires capital-intensive containment.

Read the whole article.

Researcher calls for new ‘science of climate diversity’

Jonathon Schuldt

Jonathon Schuldt

Cornell Chronicle [2014-12-09]:

There is cloud hanging over climate science, but one Cornell expert on communication and environmental issues says he knows how to help clear the air.

In the December issue of Nature Climate Change, Jonathon Schuldt ’04, assistant professor of communication, joins co-author Adam Pearson ’03, assistant professor of psychology at Pomona College, to argue that only by creating a “science of climate diversity” that helps guide researchers and public leaders can climate science and the larger climate-change movement overcome a crippling lack of ethnic and racial diversity.

“There is an invisible but very real barrier to climate engagement,” Schuldt said. “We need to engage with all kinds of diverse folks if we’re going to face this challenge. It will be a problem if the perception, and the reality, is that it’s a bunch of white male scientists at the table.”

Read the whole article.