News & Events

The latest climate change news from Cornell and beyond.


Expert: U.S. must do more to protect climate, environment

Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund

Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund, speaks on climate change and natural gas exploration in Milstein Hall Oct. 22. (Lindsay France/University Photography)

Regardless of continued efforts by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to make the production of natural gas via “fracking” as clean and climate-safe as possible, not a single state is doing enough, according to EFD’s head.

“There still isn’t even one state that protects public health and the environment in ways I consider adequate,” said Fred Krupp, president of the EFD, in his talk “Climate Change and Natural Gas: Protecting our People” Oct. 22 in Milstein Hall. “No one should have to trade their right to clean air and clean water for the sake of cheap energy,” he said.

Particularly, Krupp said that he was concerned about methane leakages from the natural gas system. He cited the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for example, that reported that it increased its estimate of the climate impact of methane, now stating that methane is 34 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in trapping heat. To mitigate this environmental hazard, he said that the EDF has joined with the University of Texas to undertake 16 studies of methane emissions across the supply chain.

Read the whole article [Cornell Chronicle 2013-10-28]

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‘Building Dashboard’ website conveys real-time energy use

Lanny Joyce, left, and Erin Moore and have created Cornell's Building Dashboard, which provides energy data on 50 campus buildings. (Robert Barker/University Photography)

Lanny Joyce, left, and Erin Moore and have created Cornell’s Building Dashboard, which provides energy data on 50 campus buildings. (Robert Barker/University Photography)

Cornell’s new Building Dashboard website provides raw, real-time energy data – in a clear, unobstructed way – to educate the community with a goal to reduce campus energy consumption and step toward a smaller carbon footprint.

The interactive dashboard includes data on electricity, heating and cooling for 50 campus buildings, and that number is expected to grow to 97 next fiscal year.

“The Building Dashboard is connected to social media and enables people to view, compare and share energy use information on the Web,” Moore says. “People are able to commit to energy-saving actions and participate in campuswide competitions that help reinforce specific actions on campus. When people save energy – as a collective – it impacts building energy usage and that is reflected on the Building Dashboard.”

Read the whole article. [Cornell Chronicle 2013-10-23]

Waste heat could keep cows cool and comfortable

Graduate student Kristy Perano takes data on a cow's level of heat stress.

Graduate student Kristy Perano takes data on a cow’s level of heat stress. (Lindsay France/University Photography)

The dog days of summer can be brutal for cows. When dairy cattle get too hot, it means reduced milk production, decreased reproductive activity and sometimes death – and for dairy farmers, lost income.

To help farmers keep cows cool, Cornell engineers are collaborating on a multidisciplinary research project supported by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) that could provide an alternative to the fans, misters, sprinklers and other heat mitigation strategies typically used.

Conductive cooling refers to heat transfer through direct contact between surfaces of different temperatures; the concept of conductively cooling cows was previously studied by Kelley Bastian, a former graduate student of Kifle Gebremedhin, professor of biological and environmental engineering. Kristy Perano, a current graduate student with Gebremedhin, is now developing and validating the concept further to determine whether conductive cooling with chilled mats underneath cows have measurable effects on their heat stress levels, milk production and overall health.

Read the whole article [Cornell Chronicle 2013-10-22]

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$12M gift bolsters Atkinson Center leadership

Patricia and David Atkinson

Patricia and David Atkinson at the 2010 announcement of their $80 million gift to name the David. R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. (Jason Koski/University Photography)

Advancing their support of cutting-edge sustainability research, David ’60 and Patricia Atkinson have given $12 million to enhance the leadership of the David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, the university announced Oct. 22.

“Dave and Pat Atkinson’s new gift expands their already extraordinary support for the Atkinson Center and will ensure our ability to recruit and retain exceptional leaders for the center in perpetuity. We are grateful for everything they have done to put sustainability at the forefront at Cornell, and to help our faculty, staff and students address some of the most important challenges facing humanity,” said President David Skorton.

Read the whole article [Cornell Chronicle 2013-10-22]

Agriculture and climate change meet at new institute

 Allison Morrill Chatrchyan

Allison Morrill Chatrchyan

For farmers, a warming climate challenges fundamental decisions they have always made based on the certainty of the weather – such as when to plant various crops, which varieties to choose or what investments in cooling or irrigation infrastructure would make the most economic sense. They will soon have a resource to help them navigate the changes: the Cornell Institute for Climate Change and Agriculture. Allison Morrill Chatrchyan becomes its first director Sept. 1.

[Cornell Chronicle 2013-06-28] Read the whole article.


Kerslick named Atkinson Center’s executive director

Graham Kerslick


Graham Kerslick will join the David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future Oct. 21 as its new executive director, where he will oversee research funding programs, internal administration and fiscal management.

Kerslick succeeds Helene Schember, the center’s founding executive director, who will continue in an advisory role until her retirement at year’s end.

Read the whole article [Cornell Chronicle 2013-10-17]


Driving Hydrogen Power to Ithaca

Paul Mutolo

Paul Mutolo

A Tompkins County bus could drive Ithaca to the forefront of a green transportation revolution.

Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit (TCAT) will get a demonstration hydrogen fuel-cell bus—the first in New York State—in late 2014, thanks to recent funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation. At the same time, a hydrogen station will open nearby to fuel the bus and other fuel-cell vehicles. The Ithaca facility will be the first public hydrogen station in upstate New York and one of only a dozen in the country.

ACSF Faculty Fellow Paul Mutolo (EMC2), a fuel cell chemist and director of external partnerships for the Energy Materials Center at Cornell, developed the federal grant proposal with TCAT and BAE Systems of Endicott, New York, a manufacturer of hybrid propulsion systems. AVF seed funding to study sustainable hydrogen production, awarded by the Atkinson Center in 2012, was an essential launching pad for this broader effort to build an infrastructure for emissions-free driving.

Read the whole article [Atkinson Center Blog 2013-10-16]

New micro water sensor can aid growers

Vinay Pagay holds a "lab on a chip"

Vinay Pagay holds a “lab on a chip” that measures moisture levels in soil and can be embedded in plant stems for accurate information on water stress. The researchers hope to mass produce the chips for as little as $5 each. (Jason Koski/University Photography)

Climate change models predict that the Northeast will see its precipitation concentrated into fewer events, punctuated by more frequent dry spells. So crop growers, wine grape and other fruit growers all benefit from water sensors for accurate, steady and numerous moisture readings. But current sensors are large, may cost thousands of dollars and often must be read manually.

Now, Cornell researchers have developed a microfluidic water sensor within a fingertip-sized silicon chip that is a hundred times more sensitive than current devices. The researchers are now completing soil tests and will soon test their design in plants, embedding their “lab on a chip” in the stems of grape vines, for example. They hope to mass produce the sensors for as little as $5 each.

Read the whole article [Cornell Chronicle 2013-10-10].



Researchers survey how green grows your switchgrass

As biofuels become an increasingly viable alternative – thanks in part to Cornell scientists – researchers here are making sure that growing grasses for biofuel won’t face inadvertent snares.

A project led by Brian K. Richards, a Cornell researcher in biological and environmental engineering, examines the long-term sustainability impacts of growing perennial grasses on marginal lands.

Read the whole article [Cornell Chronicle 2013-10-10]

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Cows’ carbon hoofprint is smaller than thought

Cows on pastureThe carbon hoofprint of dairy cows may be smaller than previously thought, report Cornell researchers.

Cows and other ruminants are the ultimate recyclers, and they deserve some credit for helping the environment while providing high-quality nutrients through their dairy products, says Michael Van Amburgh, professor of animal science.

Addressing a Sept. 12 food policy symposium hosted by International Programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Van Amburgh explained that cows are often fed byproducts from human food and biofuel production processes that would be costly to dispose of otherwise.

In fact, the alternative – incineration – directly contributes to environmental degradation, so cows actually help reduce the impact of the human food supply and make that food supply affordable.

Read the whole article. [Cornell Chronicle 2013-10-02]

Photo: Adrienne Masler, Cornell Small Farms Program