News & Events

The latest climate change news from Cornell and beyond.


Earth Day Thoughts from President Skorton

By David J. Skorton, Cornell University President 

President David Skorton using the water bottle-filling station on the third floor of Day Hall. (

President David Skorton using the water bottle-filling station on the third floor of Day Hall. (

April 22 is Earth Day, the 44th anniversary of what many consider to be the birth of the environmental movement and an opportunity for all of us to consider the health and prospects of our shared planet and what we can do as individuals and as a university community to live more sustainably and effect positive change.

As someone who on the first Earth Day was driving a bright red “muscle car” with a V8 engine and a hefty appetite for leaded gasoline, I am encouraged by the collective progress we have made since 1970, but also increasingly aware that there is much more to do — and that all of us must help find solutions to safeguard our environment and live in a sustainable way.

Cornell is home to the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, one of the world’s premier centers for research on sustainability and, among many other initiatives, the organizer of the annual Jill and Ken Iscol Distinguished Environmental Lecture. I hope you’ll join me for tomorrow’s Iscol Lecture, featuring Luc Gnacadja, former executive secretary of the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification, and our first Iscol Lecturer from the global south. Mr. Gnacadja will also be participating in several classes and other events during his visit to Cornell.

Read the whole message [Cornell Daily Sun 2014-04-21]

Atkinson Center launches postdoc fellowships

atkinson logoTo help solve the world’s significant environmental problems, Cornell’s David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future announces new Atkinson Postdoctoral Fellowships.

Transcending traditional disciplines, challenges related to energy and environment and economic development have become interdependent and interconnected. “This program is designed to attract the most creative and passionate young minds into solving critical challenges facing the planet and humanity,” says Frank DiSalvo, director of the center and the John A. Newman Professor of Physical Science.

For the two-year commitment, each fellow will have two advisers, a lead faculty member from Cornell and one from an external organization. The focus subject areas include sustainable agriculture and food systems, energy, health, sustainable communities, new materials and computational sustainability.

Says DiSalvo: “We are particularly excited by this program because it will link Cornell postdocs to an external, nonacademic partner, which will help translate research to make a real and lasting difference.”

Read the whole article [Cornell Chronicle 2014-04-16]

Celebrate Earth Day by Reconnecting with Planet Earth

Laura Faye Tenenbaum

Laura Faye Tenenbaum

From Ingrid H. H. Zabel, Ph.D., Climate Change Education Manager, Paleontological Research Institution | Museum of the Earth | Cayuga Nature Center:

Please join us this Friday evening for the final talk in our Glacier Lecture Series. These talks are aimed at a general audience, so feel free to bring your family and friends!

Celebrate Earth Day by Reconnecting with Planet Earth
Laura Faye Tenenbaum
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Friday , April 18, 6:30 pm
Museum of the Earth

Celebrate Earth Day by learning about NASA’s role in understanding Earth, ocean, and climate science, and about constructive suggestions for dealing with the complex challenges of climate change for both scientists and non-scientists.

Laura Faye Tenenbaum is an Innovator in Science Communication and a member of the Earth Science Communications Team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where she is responsible for creating content for the climate website “Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet” and the “Earth Right Now” blog ( Her team won two Webby Awards, the Internet industry’s highest honor, for Best Science Website. Her goal is to bring science, multimedia, and education together to attract a highly motivated and enthusiastic new generation that will be ready to take on the environmental challenges we face.
$10 fee; light refreshments will be served.

More information.

Name Cornell’s New Solar Farm

solar farm by the numbers

Click image for larger view.

From the sustainablecampus-l email list:

Submit your idea for the name of Cornell’s new solar farm by April 28, 2014 to:

The winner will receive a a Cornell Store gift card.

More info about the solar farm.

Upcoming events

See also the Atkinson Center Sustainability Events Calendar.

Iscol Lecture April 22 features Luc Gnacadja on land, soil and security

Luc Gnacadja

Luc Gnacadja

Jill and Ken Iscol Distinguished Environmental Lecture:

Grounding Human Security: Land and Soil in the Global Sustainability Agenda
Luc Gnacadja, Past Executive Secretary UN Convention to Combat Desertification
Tuesday, April 22 – 5:00pm – Schwartz Auditorium, Rockefeller Hall

Land is the crucial natural capital resource at the nexus of our food and water security. We need fertile soil—the skin of the land—as much as the air we breathe, yet we routinely take soil for granted. Land degradation is accelerating, especially in the developing world, threatening both environmental health and human security. Soil security is a prerequisite for human security and must be a vital part of the sustainable development goals we set. The global community can work together to balance land degradation and restoration for a more resilient future.

Mr. Gnacadja served as Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and UN Assistant Secretary-General from 2007 to 2013. He was a guiding voice for sustainable land development in the negotiations leading up to Rio+20, the June 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development. Gnacadja argued, “A land degradation–neutral world is the final piece of the puzzle that unites the challenge of land degradation with the tools at our disposal and the level of ambition needed to achieve the future we want.” The international community affirmed this goal in The Future We Want, the outcome document adopted in Rio.

Gnacadja will also speak in several classes as well as serve on a panel addressing Waterless Lands and Languishing Livelihoods on April 23.

Find the full schedule and more information at the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future website.

‘Sustainable shale development’ chair to speak April 15

Jared Cohon

Jared Cohon

Jared Cohon, board chair for the Center for Sustainable Shale Development and president emeritus of Carnegie Mellon University, will share insight into incorporating diverse, impassioned opinions to frame effective policy in his talk, “Working Together on Shale Gas Policy and Practice,” Tuesday, April 15, at 4:30 p.m., in 155 Olin Hall.

In Pennsylvania’s booming shale gas industry, recent efforts have brought industrial and environmental interests together. Last summer, the Shale Gas Roundtable, co-chaired by Cohon, released a report with suggestions for improving oil and gas development in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus and Utica shale formations.

Following the report’s release, Cohon said: “Early in our deliberations, the roundtable members were able to agree on a common-sense framework for ‘getting it right’ that includes a strong regulatory system that adequately protects the environment and our local communities; the development and widespread industry use of best management practices and performance standards; substantial investments in technological and operational innovation to minimize impacts; and balanced research to support the continual improvement of regulations, standards and technology.”

Read the whole article. [Cornell Chronicle 2014-04-09]

Students study responses to flooding in new course

Cornell Chronicle article [2014-04-07]

Students learn firsthand about social dimensions of water resource management in Thailand during a January trip to Bangkok. (Photo: Jarinee Iochawna)

Students learn firsthand about social dimensions of water resource management in Thailand during a January trip to Bangkok. (Photo: Jarinee Iochawna)

In September 2011, remnants of a tropical storm dropped 12 inches of rain in one day on New York’s Southern Tier, flooding the cities of Owego, Binghamton and surrounding areas, to the toll of an estimated $500 million in property damage. On the other side of the world, Thailand was in the midst of one of the worst monsoon seasons in recorded history, which resulted in 815 deaths and $45 billion in damage.

Shorna Allred, associate professor of natural resources in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), wondered what lessons could be learned from the responses to these two natural disasters. She studies the social dimensions of natural resource management, and much of her research focuses on flooding.

“Flooding is obviously a biophysical phenomenon – some areas are flood-prone – but it can be exacerbated, and alleviated, by things we do as humans,” Allred said. “Is there something we in New York could learn from Thailand’s experience, and is there anything in our experience that we could share with them?”

Read the whole article.

5 crops that will be harder to grow in a warmer world

David Wolfe

David Wolfe

From National Geographic Daily News [2014-04-05]:

“The reality of climate change has already hit farms, ranches, and orchards around the globe, according to the latest report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. While some crops will grow better in a warmer world, the report found that the negative impacts—including widespread crop damage, smaller harvests, and higher food costs—far outweigh any upsides.

“The report predicts that yields of major food crops like corn, wheat, and rice are likely to start decreasing by 2030 and will continue to decline by up to 2 percent a decade.

“No particular crops are likely to disappear any time soon, says David Wolfe, professor of horticulture at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and committee member of Cornell’s Institute for Climate Change and Agriculture. Still, he predicts that farmers of the near future will likely have to take increasingly drastic and expensive measures to cope with epic droughts, summer heat, rogue frosts, and ever-changing growing seasons. ‘If it was as simple as gradual warming, farmers could plant around it,’ he says. ‘But as this global experiment has been playing out, farmers are seeing things they’ve never seen before.’”

Read the whole article.

Sustainable farm energy virtual tours start April 4


A solar powered pumping system in Pultney, NY

Solar powered pumping system, Pultney, NY

From the Cornell Small Farms Program:

Are you looking to stabilize rising fuel and energy costs on your farm or homestead?  Are you seeking more sustainable sources of energy?  In this upcoming four-part webinar series, you’ll meet an organic vegetable farmer, grape grower & winemaker, sunflower & biodiesel producer, and pastured livestock farmer who will lead you through a virtual tour of their sustainable farm energy systems and ecological production techniques.

  • April 4: Organic Vegetable Farm Cools with the Earth: Warms with the Sun
    Noon – 1:00pm with Jay Armour of Four Winds Farm, Gardiner, NY
  • April 11: Family Vineyard Shrinks Carbon Footprint by 40%
    Noon – 1:00pm with Art Hunt of Hunt Country Vineyards, Branchport, NY
  • April 18: Sunflowers & Canola to Fuel: Dairy Becomes Biodiesel Production Facility
    Noon – 1:00pm with Roger Rainville of Borderview Farm, Alburgh, Vermont
  • April 25: Thirsty Livestock? Use Sun or Wind to Power a Remote Watering System
    Noon – 1:00pm with Jonathan Barter of Barter Farm, Branchport NY

Preregistration required. More information, registration links.