News & Events

The latest climate change news from Cornell and beyond.


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]

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]

View CornellCast video.

‘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]

CornellCast video:

$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]