News & Events

The latest climate change news from Cornell and beyond.

 

Faculty Senate urges fossil fuel divestment

David Shalloway and Robert Oswald

David Shalloway and Robert Oswald

By a vote of 46-13-2, the Cornell University Faculty Senate adopted a resolution Dec. 11 calling for the university to divest its $5.7 billion endowment from the top 200 fossil fuel-holding companies.

The resolution, “Cornell Investment and Divestment Strategies for a Sustainable Future,” also calls for Cornell to revise its Climate Action Plan to set a goal of carbon neutrality by 2035. In 2009 the university pledged to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

Cornell’s faculty is the first in the Ivy League to pass a resolution calling for divestment, and many professors believe the symbolic resolution will foster dialogue, according to a statement released by faculty senators.

“It is our responsibility to act together to strongly encourage the governmental actions that are needed to address the rapidly approaching climate catastrophe,” said David Shalloway, the Greater Philadelphia Professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics and a co-sponsor of the resolution with 37 faculty members in 21 departments. “The adoption of the resolution by the Faculty Senate demonstrates moral courage that I hope will inspire similar actions at other educational institutions.”

Some of the resolution’s co-sponsors research climate change and adaptations to it. “Cornell was founded as a land-grant institution with a mission to translate our research into real-world solutions,” said co-sponsor Robert Oswald, professor of molecular medicine. “That is precisely what we are trying to do here.”

The Faculty Senate’s resolution followed a spring 2013 Cornell Student Assembly (SA) resolution that called for full divestment from fossil fuel holdings by 2020. The Graduate and Professional Student Assembly tabled a similar resolution.

Read the whole article. [Cornell Chonicle 2013-12-18]


Student energy group saves Cornell $35,000

The Cornell Energy Corps recently launched a campaign on the Indiegogo online fundraising platform to support energy auditing training, purchase auditing equipment and send team members to an energy efficiency conference.

The Cornell Energy Corps recently launched a campaign on the Indiegogo online fundraising platform to support energy audit training, purchase auditing equipment and send team members to an energy efficiency conference.

By replacing 61 incandescent light bulbs at Mann Library with CFL bulbs, Energy Corps, a student organization on campus helped the university save $600 over seven years. That was in spring 2012, when Energy Corps was founded by Sheila Garcia ’13, Mike Gardo ’14, Raksit Pattanapitoon and Jacob Reisch ’14.

Since then, Energy Corps has worked on 10 projects on campus that are expected to save $35,077 in energy and bulb-replacements this year –  $12,700 of that from avoided energy costs in the past fiscal year. This equates to $245,539 in savings over the next seven years.

Energy Corps also recently launched a campaign on Indiegogo, an online fundraising platform. In the first week, they raised more than $1,000, 10 percent of their goal. This money will be used for energy auditing training, to purchase auditing equipment and to send team members to an energy efficiency conference.

Read the whole article [Cornell Chronicle 2013-11-26]

Energy Corps at Cornell University Indiegogo page.

Energy Corps at Cornell University webpage.


Book links food security to political stability

Food Security and Sociopolitical StabilityWhile drought-withered crops and starving livestock make cover stories, policymakers’ actions taken now to address “food security stressors” ultimately could have more impact worldwide than “biophysical drivers” like climate change and water scarcity.

That is the contention of a new book edited by Cornell’s Christopher B. Barrett, “Food Security and Sociopolitical Stability” (Oxford University Press, 2013).

The book points to a surge of urban food riots in low- and middle-income countries when food prices spiked in 2008 and 2011 – and cautions that the most destabilizing effect of higher food prices might be induced competition for land, water, fisheries, even animal and plant genetic material, any of which can spark violence.

Read the whole article. [Cornell Chronicle 2013-11-25]

 

 

 


Hotels’ green efforts don’t affect revenues

Chong and Verma.

Chong and Verma.

An analysis of sales and rates for 9,000 hotels shows a net neutral effect for the hotel industry’s efforts to implement sustainability. The Cornell study concluded that the hotel industry’s fears of losing business due to implementing “green” operations is unfounded. However, on average, hotels also don’t see a revenue boost – or loss – from going green.

The study, “Hotel Sustainability: Financial Analysis Shines a Cautious Green Light,” by Howard G. Chong, assistant professor of economics and sustainability, and Rohit Verma, professor of service operations management, both in Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration (SHA). The study was published by the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research and presented Oct. 18 at the 2013 Sustainability Roundtable at the SHA.

Read the whole article. [Cornell Chronicle 2013-11-21]


Cornell Tech designed ‘for next century’

Rendition of what the Cornell NYC Tech campus will look like.With its innovative approach to sustainable design, the new Cornell NYC Tech campus on Roosevelt Island will be more than another ivory tower, as its forward-leaning design has innovative building technologies.

Some of the sustainable strategies include: optimal building orientation to maximize photovoltaic performance, efficient geothermal heating and cooling systems, high-performance building envelopes, daylight harvesting to limit the use of electric lighting, efficient lighting systems that use the latest proven technology and controls, and possible passive house criteria for residential towers. The first academic building, for example, will consume ultra-low energy and use geothermal heat pump heating and cooling, and energy from solar photovoltaic panels.

While the campus will take advantage of its natural habitat by incorporating rain gardens, green roofs and reforestation, it will also take measures to protect against any tidal surges caused by rising sea levels or future storms such as Hurricane Sandy.

“We believe global warming is real,” said Kyu-Jung Whang, Cornell vice president for facilities services. Over the next few decades the current 500-year flood level could replace the 100-year flood level, he said. “In addition to raising the level of the site, we are using the natural topography of the island, where there is a ridge down the center, to place the entry points of all future buildings on campus,” he added.

Read the whole article. [Cornell Chronicle 2013-11-20]


Upcoming seminars: Carbon markets, plant responses to changing CO2

 

The novel use of carbon markets to abate agricultural nitrous oxide emissions
Philip Robertson
University Distinguished Professor, Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences,
Michigan State University
Biogeochemistry, Environmental Science and Sustainability (BESS) Seminar Series
November 15, 4:00-5:00 p.m.
Morison Room, A106 Corson Hall

Climate Change and Materialities: The Case of Rice in India
Barbara Harriss-White
Emeritus Professor of Development Studies at Oxford University
November 18, 3:30-4:30 p.m.
102 Mann Library

Atmospheric Impacts of Expanded Natural Gas Use
David Allen
Director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Resources, the University of Texas at Austin
November 20, 3:30-4:30 p.m.
Olin Hall 255

Plant Responses to Changing [CO2]: Last Glacial Period Through the Future
Joy Ward
University of Kansas,  Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
November 21,  2:15-3:15 p.m.
Boyce Thompson Institute Auditorium


Skorton: Hard work ahead for campus sustainability

Winners of the Cornell University Partners in Sustainability Award announced at the summit (from left) Céline Jennison, of the Cornell Permaculture Club; Rebecca Macies; Erin Moore; and Joan Manheim. (Photo: Mark Lawrence)

Winners of the Cornell University Partners in Sustainability Award announced at the summit (from left) Céline Jennison, of the Cornell Permaculture Club; Rebecca Macies; Erin Moore; and Joan Manheim. (Photo: Mark Lawrence)

On the day the United Nations announced that global carbon dioxide levels had reached their worst levels in history, Cornellians reported that the strategies to reduce the university’s carbon footprint are working, but the campus has a long road to meet its carbon neutrality goals by 2050.

Cornell President David Skorton spoke to about 130 faculty, students and staff members Nov. 6 at the third annual President’s Sustainable Campus Committee fall summit, which included sessions for small working groups addressing Climate Action Plan priorities and the announcement of the winners of the Cornell University Partners in Sustainability Award.

In discussing campus efforts, Skorton said that easy-to-fix strategies are in place, but hard decisions are ahead.

“As bold as [going coal-free has] been, it’s not obvious what the next three or four or five bold moves are going to be,” he said, urging the sustainability leaders to find ways to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Cornell has reduced carbon emissions by 32 percent since Skorton signed the Presidents Climate Commitment in 2007. The next steps in significantly reducing our carbon footprint won’t be easy, he said.

Read the whole article. [Cornell Chronicle 2013-11-07]


Cornell center to lead marine ecosystem group

Mark Milstein and Drew Harvell

Mark Milstein and Drew Harvell

The Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management’s Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise will lead a $2.3 million effort to improve economic links to marine ecosystems following the signing of an agreement Nov. 6 by the World Bank in Washington, D.C.

Mark Milstein, clinical professor of management and director of the center, will lead a team of international researchers to improve the link between local economies and the natural wealth of coastal communities in the East Asia-Pacific region.

“In many tropical coastal areas, natural capital is in decline as human populations expand and the value of ecosystem services is misunderstood, overlooked or ignored in a quest for economic progress,” said Milstein. “In the long run, both existing businesses and entrepreneurial ventures must operate so they benefit from, and maintain the value of, critical coastal ecosystem services.”

Johnson will partner with the Capturing Coral Reef and Related Ecosystem Services (CCRES) Project for East Asia and Pacific. Additional funding for CCRES activities will involve Drew Harvell, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, who will join a team valuing ecosystem services that contribute to regional policy decisions. Cornell’s involvement in CCRES evolved from Harvell’s prior research on the connections between coral reef health and climate change. Cornell’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future helped to catalyze the university’s involvement in the project.

Read the whole article. [Cornell Chronicle 2013-11-07]

 

 


As crop indicators, weeds spread in warmer world

Click image to view CornellCast video

Click image to view CornellCast video

Weeds, those unwanted, unloved and annoying invasive plants that farmers and gardeners hate amid their plantings, are expanding to northern latitudes, thanks to rising temperatures.

“Weeds are the wild relatives of many of our crops,” says Antonio DiTommaso, a weed ecologist and Cornell associate professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences. “Weeds will be the harbingers of global warming. They’ll tell us what kind of species of crops will likely survive in a changing climate.”

Impending climate change will bring different crops to different regions, he says. Many weeds already have expanded their latitudinal ranges – or will do so – based on climatic pressures, he says. For example, johnsongrass and velvetleaf have migrated from more southern U.S. climes through Pennsylvania and New York.

Read the whole article. [Cornell Chronicle 2013-11-07]

View CornellCast video.


Making electric energy efficient at bargain prices

Kevin Matocha, president of Monolith Semiconductor, captures a self-portrait in the mirror surface of a silicon carbide wafer.

Kevin Matocha, president of Monolith Semiconductor, captures a self-portrait in the mirror surface of a silicon carbide wafer.

To enhance efficiency in electric energy transfers from high-voltage grids to your home’s toaster and television, the U.S. Department of Energy’s ARPA-E program awarded a $3.2 million grant in October to Monolith Semiconductor, an Ithaca-based startup company. Monolith to makes state-of-the-art silicon carbide switches, which can step down electricity from the grid to your home and office – with almost no energy loss.

“To transform America’s energy infrastructure, we will need innovative technology options that can radically improve how we convert and use energy,” says Cheryl Martin, deputy director of ARPA-E. “[These projects] could result in some of the critical components needed to update our aging infrastructure and reduce power losses from the grid.”

Read the whole article. [Cornell Chronicle 2013-11-04]