News & Events

The latest climate change news from Cornell and beyond.

 

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 ClimatePlace.org.

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]


Climate change movie screening Sept. 26

From Jonathan Comstock, research support specialist (Wolfe Lab):

The Resilient Onesposter

Reception and Film Screening
Warren Hall B25, Cornell University
2:30 – 4:00, Friday, Sept. 26th

The hour-long film, starting at 3pm, will be preceded by a reception with refreshments in the foyer. Meet with filmmakers Victor Guadagno and Jon Erickson. The film will also be followed by Q&A with filmmakers and local individuals featured in the film.

Synopsis:

In August of 2011, Tropical Storm Irene ripped through the Adirondack Mountains of Northern New York, upending lives and communities, and reminding us of the ecological foundation of our economic well-being. Irene was a wake-up call, exposing vulnerabilities of inland communities and sounding a call to action.

In the aftermath of the storm, a group of high school students take us on a journey through the region to meet local leaders and innovators. Cody Bary, Erin Weaver, and Gina Fiorile serve as our guides to understanding both short-term strategies for adapting to extreme weather and long-term solutions to reducing carbon emissions.

The Resilient Ones explores the complex social transitions necessary to navigate this new era in human history.

In addition to the high school students that the film follows, a host of experts are interviewed including: Jerry Jenkins, Wildlife Conservation Society, Jonathan Comstock, Research Support Specialist, Cornell University; Ian Shapiro, Founder of TAITEM Engineering, Ithaca, NY; and Ken Mudge, Dept. of Horticulture, Cornell University.

More information, trailers, etc. at The Resilient Ones movie website.

Event poster.

If you can’t make the on-campus screening, there will be a second screening in Ithaca on Saturday:

Saturday, Sept. 27th, 7:30 p.m.
Lehman Alternative Community School
Black Box Theater
111 Chestnut Street, Ithaca
55 min. run time and Q&A with Filmmaker Victor Guadagno and individuals featured in the film immediately following.


Cornellians march in NYC to fight climate change

Cornell students join scientists, teachers, celebrities and members of Congress to protest climate change and injustice at the People's Climate March Sept. 21 in New York City. (Photo: Bruce Monger)

Cornell students join scientists, teachers, celebrities and members of Congress to protest climate change and injustice at the People’s Climate March Sept. 21 in New York City. (Photo: Bruce Monger)

At 5:30 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 21, more than 130 Cornellians boarded buses with posters and optimism to join 400,000 individuals participating in the People’s Climate March in New York City.

The march drew individuals from all over the world who came together to call on international leaders to commit to combatting climate change at the Sept. 23 United Nations Climate Summit. There, “representatives will discuss climate policies for their home countries and a possible global agreement,” said Emma Johnston ’16, Student Assembly Environmental Task Force chair. “People gathered to advocate for stronger action by world leaders to mitigate the harmful impacts of anthropocentric climate change will have on people and the environment.”

The march was the largest climate march in history. Cole Norgaarden ’17, an organizer who recruited and mobilized Cornell students, said: “I think everyone there was surprised by the attendance. NYPD anticipated 40,000, but 400,000 actually showed up.”

Read the whole article. [Cornell Chronicle 2014-09-23]


NYS Report Updates Potential Climate Changes in New York

nyserda logoNew York State Energy Research and Development Authority has released updated projections of climate changes in New York State – changes that are already affecting the state and will likely result in greater impacts on flooding, agriculture, winter tourism, and many other areas in the future.

This update uses the latest generation of climate models and methods to determine potential changes to New York State’s climate as a result of increasing greenhouse gas emissions. The results reinforce the importance of preparing New York for the realities of a changing climate.

As the understanding of climate science improves, it is important to re-evaluate the expected changes to New York State’s climate on a regular basis, to ensure that our responses remain relevant, effective, and based on the most up-to-date science.

Released in 2011, “Responding to Climate Change in New York State: The ClimAID Integrated Assessment for Effective Climate Change Adaptation” is a 600-page report that presents the projected changes in climate for seven geographic regions of the state, ranging from the coasts of Long Island to the mountains of the Adirondacks and the farms of Western New York.

This 2014 update to the climate chapter of the original report presents refined projections for the seven regions based on additional and newer models, updated methods and science, and new emissions scenarios. The study fine-tunes projections for variables such as sea level rise and extreme events like downpours and heat waves. This update also extends the projections through 2100.

The new climate projections for New York State use methods developed by the New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC) to provide updated climate information for the City following Hurricane Sandy. The climate projections for Region 4 (New York City and Long Island) in this update report were created as part of the NPCC process. The interactions between the City and State are illustrative of the cross-scale linkages that are essential to building climate resilience.

The original ClimAID report also detailed the potential impacts of these changes on eight sectors across the state: water resources, coastal zones, ecosystems, agriculture, energy, transportation, telecommunications and public health, as well as steps that government, businesses, and private citizens can take to adapt to those impacts.

In general, the updated study confirmed and refined previous projections:

• Sea level could rise significantly, permanently flooding some areas and increasing the likelihood of damage to coastal infrastructure from storm surge, including roads and bridges.
• Inland and upstate, heavy downpours and subsequent flooding are expected to increase. In the winter, more rainstorms in place of snow are expected.
• While winters will be milder, summers are expected to see more extreme and longer heat waves, with more droughts as well.

The climate projections update to the original report was conducted by Columbia University researchers, with input from Cornell University and Hunter College at the City University of New York. NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and NOAA Consortium for Climate Risk in the Urban Northeast scientists also contributed to the work.

A copy of the study, as well as other climate research documents, is available at www.nyserda.ny.gov/ClimAID. The NPCC2 draft projections for New York City can be found at http://www.nyc.gov/html/planyc/downloads/pdf/publications/NPCC2_Climate%20Methods%20Memorandum_2013.pdf.


Seminar: Characterizing Uncertainty in Climate Change from Global to Regional Scales

Chris Forest

Chris Forest

Environmental & Water Resources Distinguished Speaker Series
Thursday, September 25, 4:30-5:30pm, 366 Hollister Hall

Characterizing Uncertainty in Climate Change from Global to Regional Scales

Chris E. Forest
Associate Professor of Climate Dynamics
Department of Meteorology
Penn State University

Uncertainty in regional climate predictions is a critical component of understanding risks of future climate impacts. Unfortunately, while state of the science Earth System Models show consistency with observations at global and hemispheric scales, they fail to show significant skill reproducing climate change at sub-continental and smaller scales (i.e., regional scales) despite their ability detect and attribute climate change at global to continental scales. Large internal climate variability is one reason for this lack of skill although when forced by historical tropical sea surface temperature (SST) patterns, atmospheric general circulation models (AGCMs) show reasonable skill at reproducing regional climate change over continents. In this talk, we investigate how multiple AGCMs respond over continents to idealized SST anomaly patterns and define a global teleconnection operator (GTO) as a tool for investigating regional climate sensitivities of individual models. This GTO permits identifying a component of internal climate variability that is forced by SST variability and also evaluating how AGCMs differ in their idealized regional responses. The implications for the general predictions of global to regional climate change will be discussed given these results.


New solar farm flips switch

Local science teachers tour the Cornell Snyder Road Solar Farm in late July, learning how the generated electricity will be loaded onto the regional power grid. (Photo: Jason Koski/University Photography)

Local science teachers tour the Cornell Snyder Road Solar Farm in late July, learning how the generated electricity will be loaded onto the regional power grid. (Photo: Jason Koski/University Photography)

Procuring the sun’s vital energy, Cornell has electrifying news: The Cornell Snyder Road Solar Farm – teeming with 6,778 freshly installed photovoltaic panels on an 11-acre plot that adjoins the Tompkins County Regional Airport – is set to go live Sept. 19.

Annually, the 2-megawatt array will produce about 2.5 million kilowatt hours – 1 percent of Cornell’s total electricity use; that’s enough to power 320 homes for a year. It also will reduce the university’s greenhouse gas emissions by 650 metric tons.

“Cornell’s investment in the solar farm is one more step in realizing our Climate Action Plan goal of zero carbon emissions by 2050 or sooner,” said KyuJung Whang, vice president for facilities services. “Gov. Andrew Cuomo has established a goal to make New York a leader in solar development, and Cornell strives to set an example for the region and the state by reducing our carbon footprint.”

Read the whole article [Cornell Chronicle 2014-0918].