News & Events

The latest climate change news from Cornell and beyond.


Belief in climate change doesn’t always lead to action


beach erosion

Cornell researchers have set out to identify factors that may motivate Americans to mobilize for grassroots action on climate change. Local climate change consequences, such as beach erosion, motivate people more than distant one.

Cornell Chronicle [2014-11-04]:

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.”

Read the whole article.

Proposed Geneva solar array conjures electrifying future

Cornell Chronicle [2014-11-04]:

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.

Adapting is key to survive climate change, says Revkin

A.D. White Professor-at-Large Andrew Revkin visits with students at William Keeton House Oct. 30. (Robert Barker/University Photography)

A.D. White Professor-at-Large Andrew Revkin visits with students at William Keeton House Oct. 30. (Robert Barker/University Photography)

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]

Responding to climate change can’t wait program Nov. 17


click image for full-sized poster

Click image for full-sized poster

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.

Upcoming seminars

Andrew Revkin

Andrew Revkin

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.
More info.

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
Bradfield 1102
EAS special seminar

New Climate Change Solutions seminar starts spring semester

Natalie Mahowald

Natalie Mahowald

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.

Former Hawaii Governor Lingle to speak on campus October 23

Linda Lingle

Linda Lingle

A Clean Energy Future
Special lecture by Former Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle
Thursday, October 23, 2014 at 5:00pm
Warren Hall , Warren Hall Auditorium
Free and open to the public

Join Cornell Plantations for a special lecture by former Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle about clean energy initiatives. A clean energy future depends on commitments from the political, corporate, and NGO sectors. Governor Lingle will discuss her involvement with the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, the US Department of Energy and the Aspen Institute to describe how a clean energy future is possible.

More information.

Alum urges students to drive clean tech revolution

Dan Miller

Dan Miller

“Climate change – we understand the problem really well, and we understand the solutions really well, and yet we are doing virtually nothing,” Dan Miller ’78, managing director and co-founder of The Roda Group, a venture capital group focused on clean technology, said in his Sustainable Global Enterprise talk on campus, Oct. 7. “We need to change out $30 trillion of energy and transportation infrastructure over the next 30 years to address [climate change],” Miller added.

Entreating Cornell students to leverage their degrees in agriculture, engineering and business to start clean tech companies, he said: “With climate change, bad things are happening. But it is a bad problem which opens up great opportunities to you.”

Miller cited three companies The Roda Group has invested in: Inventys, which has developed a low-cost method to capture CO2 from power plants; Gridtential, which is developing a new kind of lead-acid battery optimized for microgrid energy storage; and Solazyme, a renewable oil and bioproducts company.

Solazyme uses engineering and genetic science to create renewable diesel fuel from algae that is grown and fermented in tanks in a three-day cycle. The end product is identical to petroleum-based diesel, but unlike fossil fuels originating with CO2 from the atmosphere hundreds of thousands of years ago, Solazyme’s diesel is made from CO2 captured from the atmosphere today and has a “net-zero” carbon footprint once it is burned.

“The most important thing to know about climate change is that CO2 is not like other types of pollutants,” Miller said. “If you have a river that is polluted, maybe by industrial run-off, we see this as a problem which can be fixed. We rally our neighbors and enact legislation, and we get the polluters shut down. And, after a few years, the river is clean again and you can fish and go swimming again. But CO2 lasts in the atmosphere for hundreds of thousands of years. That is why it is so important to address it immediately.”

To learn more about clean tech and Miller’s climate outreach efforts, visit

Cornell Chronicle [2014-10-16]

Seminar Oct. 7: What’s new in climate change science?

Natalie Mahowald

Natalie Mahowald

What’s new in climate change science?
A review of the IPCC AR5 report

Natalie Mahowald
Professor, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
Faculty Fellow, Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future
Cornell University

Tuesday, October 7, 2014
12:15 – 1:15 p.m.
155 Olin Hall

Anthropogenic climate change is one of the most pressing problems facing humans, and is largely driven by increases in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Hear an update on the physical science of climate change in the latest assessment report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change by a lead author of the assessment. The talk will briefly discuss the science behind climate change, and what is new in the latest report.

Sponsored by the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

Business leads carbon neutrality

From left, Jeremy Kuhre, Zachary Perlstein, Mauricio Medaets and Ace Stryker march in New York City Sept. 21.

From left, Jeremy Kuhre, Zachary Perlstein, Mauricio Medaets and Ace Stryker march in New York City Sept. 21.

Jeremy Kuhre, a first-year MBA student who plans to focus his studies on sustainable global enterprise with a focus on renewable energy, explains why he attended the People’s Climate March in New York City September 21. Prior to attending the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University, he was a project manager for Sustainable Solutions Corp., a consulting-engineering firm based outside Philadelphia.

Personally, I was marching as a representative of the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management and, more broadly, business. During the march, we met many individuals, who were appreciative of (and in some cases, surprised by) the fact that MBAs also cared about climate change. It’s true that addressing climate change will require extraordinary coordination between governments, businesses and the social sector. However, we at Johnson believe that business is the largest catalyst for change, when it comes to transitioning to a carbon-neutral economy.

Read the Kuhre’s entire commentary. [Cornell Chronicle 2014-09-24]