News & Events

The latest climate change news from Cornell and beyond.


Geothermal project could warm campus, expand energy study

Cornell Chronicle [2016-09-06]

Cornell is pursuing a project that has the potential to eliminate an estimated 82,000 metric tons of carbon from its annual footprint and establish one of the country’s most advanced geothermal systems to heat the 745-acre Ithaca campus – an effort that could demonstrate a new scalable model for using this sustainable energy source throughout the U.S. and almost anywhere in the world.

Cornell is calling the project “Earth Source Heat.” This effort to explore the potential of enhanced-geothermal energy will combine Cornell’s world-leading energy and sustainability researchers with the living laboratory of Cornell’s facilities over the next two decades. Its first step will be a planned small-scale demonstration installation within about five years of a well pair that will reach into the basement rock more than two miles below the surface to tap the Earth’s vast heat reservoir. Water will be circulated in a closed loop through the rock and return to the surface to supply heat to the campus.

Read the whole article.

Earth Source Heating illustration: Cornell Marketing Group

Earth Source Heating illustration: Cornell Marketing Group

Early-onset spring models may indicate ‘nightmare’ for ag

Toby Ault

Toby Ault

Cornell Chronicle [2016-08-31]:

Warm springs in the Great Lakes and Northeast regions – which create havoc for agriculture – may start earlier by mid-century if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced, according to a new Cornell study published in Climate Dynamics.

Very warm springs have been anomalies, but this new analysis of climate model data shows an increased frequency to nearly one in every three years by the end of this century.

“The spring of 2012, with its summerlike warmth, brought plants out of dormancy and then had a lengthy freeze. This was a nightmare scenario for many growers, and it showed us a snapshot of what global warming might look like in this region,” said Toby Ault, assistant professor in earth and atmospheric sciences, an author on the study.

Unusually warm temperatures early in spring 2012 led to the warmest March, breaking records in more than 15,000 U.S. sites.

Modeling shows that frequency and magnitude of early springs could occur more than a month earlier, for example, throughout the Great Lakes region by 2080.

“The time to act on curbing greenhouse gas emissions is now. If we don’t, years like 2012 – ruinous to farmers and producers – in the U.S. could become normal by 30 to 40 years from now in addition to a host of other impacts,” said Ault.

Read the whole article.

USDA Designates 15 NY Counties as Primary Natural Disaster Areas

usda logoUSDA-FSA release [2016-08-29]

WASHINGTON, Aug. 29, 2016 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has designated 15 counties in New York as primary natural disaster areas due to losses caused by a recent drought. Those counties are:

  • Cayuga
  • Chemung 
  • Erie
  • Genesee
  • Livingston
  • Monroe
  • Niagara
  • Ontario
  • Schuyler
  • Seneca
  • Steuben
  • Tioga
  • Tompkins
  • Wyoming
  • Yates

“Our hearts go out to those New York farmers and ranchers affected by recent natural disasters,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “President Obama and I are committed to ensuring that agriculture remains a bright spot in our nation’s economy by sustaining the successes of America’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities through these difficult times. We’re also telling New York producers that USDA stands with you and your communities when severe weather and natural disasters threaten to disrupt your livelihood.”

Read the full release.

Greenhouse Simulates A Warmer Future


Plantations greenhouse Photo: Sonja Skelly

Photo: Sonja Skelly

Via [2016-0811]:

Have you ever wondered how climate change would feel, or what it would look like in the year 2050? Rest assured, you’re not alone. University faculty are conducting cross-departmental research at Cornell Plantations, the university’s botanical garden, to develop a model demonstration garden that will illustrate climate changes predicted for the year 2050. The goal is to develop a replicable garden of food crops and nectar plants for other botanical gardens and museums around the world to use as a teaching tool for the visiting public.

Synchronistic curiosity about how to physically demonstrate climate change brought the three primary team members together: Chris Wien, an emeritus horticulture faculty member, wanted to build a ‘high tunnel” (unheated greenhouse) to demonstrate climate change. Josh Cerre, assistant professor of landscape architecture, is a designer and an ecologist with research interests in climate adaptation and sustainable development. Sonja Skelly, director of education at Plantations, is coordinating the team’s interpretive education and developing visitor communication strategies.

Since its inception in 2013, additional staff, faculty and students have joined this unique garden-modeling project. For example, David Wolfe, a professor of horticulture who specializes in climate change adaptation and mitigation, has provided home gardening tips for an interpretive pamphlet available to garden visitors. Funding has been provided from the Toward Sustainability Foundation and Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future

Read the whole article.

Scientists propose novel carbon-capture electrochemical cell


Graphic: Clive Howard/Cornell Marketing Group

Graphic: Clive Howard/Cornell Marketing Group

Cornell Chronicle [2016-08-04]

While the human race will always leave its carbon footprint on the Earth, it must continue to find ways to lessen the impact of its fossil fuel consumption.

“Carbon capture” technologies – chemically trapping carbon dioxide before it is released into the atmosphere – is one approach. And in a report released last month, Cornell researchers disclose a novel method for capturing the greenhouse gas and converting it to a useful product – while producing electrical energy.

Lynden Archer, the James A. Friend Family Distinguished Professor of Engineering, and doctoral student Wajdi Al Sadat have developed an oxygen-assisted aluminum/carbon dioxide power cell that uses electrochemical reactions to both sequester the carbon dioxide and produce electricity.

Their paper, “The O2-assisted Al/CO2 electrochemical cell: A system for CO2 capture/conversion and electric power generation,” was published July 20 in Science Advances. Al Sadat – who worked for 12 years at the world’s largest oil company, Saudi Aramco, and had hands-on experience with classical carbon-capture technologies before coming to Cornell four years ago – authored the study.

The group’s proposed cell would use aluminum as the anode and mixed streams of carbon dioxide and oxygen as the active ingredients of the cathode. The electrochemical reactions between the anode and the cathode would sequester the carbon dioxide into carbon-rich compounds while also producing electricity and a valuable oxalate as a byproduct.

Read the whole article.

In the news


Robert Young lectures high school students in the Cornell Summer College course Creating Green Cities and Sustainable Futures, in Fernow Hall. (Photo: Jason Koski/Cornell Marketing)

Robert Young lectures high school students in the Cornell Summer College course Creating Green Cities and Sustainable Futures, in Fernow Hall. (Photo: Jason Koski/Cornell Marketing)

Summer course maps history, future of green cities [Cornell Chronicle 2017-07-20] – Learning about more than ecology and sustainability in urban environments, high school students looked deeply into the technological and political forces that created and continue to shape cities and the global economy in the Cornell Summer College course Creating Green Cities and Sustainable Futures, led by Robert F. Young ’82, MRP ’96, Ph.D. ’07.

Could Making Bleach from CO2 Reduce Carbon Emissions? [IndustryWeek 2017-07-20] – Cornell University researchers have developed a technique that sucks up CO2 from exhaust streams and generates useful electricity as a byproduct.

Low snowfall, missing rain making NY’s creeks run dry [Cornell Media Relations Tip Sheet 2017-07-13] - Todd Walter, director of the New York State Water Resources Institute at Cornell University, attributes low flows to the prolonged lack of significant rain, rather than the lack of our usual snowy winter weather.

Climate, Weather, Data: Protecting Our Crops and Landscapes conference Aug. 15

conference poster

Click image to download poster (.pdf)

NYS IPM Climate Conference:

Climate, Weather, Data: Protecting Our Crops and Landscapes
August 15, 2016, 9:00 – 4:15
Cornell Cooperative Extension Albany County, Voorheesville, NY

With all the talk about climate change you might be wondering how it will affect food production, pests, and even landscapes  – and what you can do about it. The Second Annual NYS Integrated Pest Management conference can help!  Climate, Weather, Data:  Protecting Our Crops and Landscapes will be held August 15, 2016 at the Cornell Cooperative Extension Office in Voorheesville, NY.

A wide variety of speakers from New York State and the Northeast will provide background information on the current state of knowledge on climate change and changes in our weather patterns, and how collecting climate and weather data can help us predict and manage pests.

Mike Hoffmann and Allison Chatrchyan from the Cornell Institute for Climate Change and Agriculture will discuss what you can do about climate change, and the Climate Smart Farming Program.   Jerry Brotzge will explain the NYS Mesonet. Juliet Carroll from NYS Integrated Pest Management will cover the tools for growers in the Network for Environment and Weather Applications system.  David Hollinger will present resources from the Northeast Regional Climate Hub.

Open discussion sessions are included so you can ask your own questions.  The final agenda will be available soon, so stay tuned!

We are honored that Richard Ball, the Commissioner of the  NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets, will kick off the conference with opening remarks

The program will run from 9:00-4:15 and costs $45 – which includes lunch, and breaks.

Registration information, a map, and the draft agenda can be found at the Climate, Weather, Data website

If you have questions, please contact Amanda Grace at or 315 787-2208.

Cornell students: Attend COP 22 in Marrakesh, Morocco.

Cornell is planning to send delegates to the 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP) in Marrakesh, Morocco in November. Apply now. Questions? Contact Abbie Kramer

cop 22 poster

Hudson River wetlands may expand


Magdeline Laba, senior research associate, and James Mastroianni, a former Cornell researcher, wade through marshes along the Hudson River, at the Tivoli Bays Wildlife Management Area.

Magdeline Laba, senior research associate, and James Mastroianni, a former Cornell researcher, wade through marshes along the Hudson River, at the Tivoli Bays Wildlife Management Area.

Cornell Chronicle [2016-06-29]:

In the face of climate change impact and inevitable sea level rise, Cornell and Scenic Hudson scientists studying New York’s Hudson River estuary have forecast new intertidal wetlands, comprising perhaps 33 percent more wetland area by the year 2100.

“In other parts of the world, sea level rise has led to net losses of tidal wetland and to permanent inundation,” said Magdeline Laba, Cornell senior research associate in soil and crop sciences.

In terms of population, the Hudson River valley is one of the fastest growing regions in the state, she explained, as the transportation network and industry border both sides of the river. “Taking this into account, it is quite surprising that wetlands have any area at all to expand into,” Laba said. “There will be a net increase in total wetlands, instead of a decrease, which is really amazing.”

Read the whole article.

Tokyo’s urban cap-and-trade program soars past goals

Cornell Chronicle [2016-06-22]:



By any measure, Tokyo’s plan for reducing greenhouse gas emission and boosting energy saving has been a success.

Cornell and Tokyo governmental researchers have pored over five years of data from the city’s cap-and-trade program – the world’s first such program that focused on urban buildings – and found it achieved more than a 20 percent reduction in emissions. The goal for the first phase of the program, 2010 to 2014, was 8 percent emission reduction from its baseline year; in the second phase, from 2015 to 2019, Tokyo’s large commercial buildings must achieve an emissions mitigation goal of an additional 17 percent.

Cap-and-trade is an environmental and economical approach to controlling greenhouse gas emissions, a major culprit in global climate change. Caps set emission limits, while trade allows companies to sell and purchase environmental credits, which offset difficulties in reaching goals and promotes cost-effective sustainability efforts.

“The program’s design and implementation reflects a clear approach to using environmental policies to increase market payoff, maximize flexibility in compliance and boost the ability to implement new knowledge in buildings – all ways to nurture market success of eco-friendly technology and mitigate carbon emissions,” said Ying Hua, associate professor in the College of Human Ecology’s Department of Design and Environmental Analysis.

Tokyo’s cap-and-trade program affects about 1,300 existing large commercial and industrial buildings, which account for about 20 percent of the city’s total carbon emissions

Read the whole article.