News & Events

The latest climate change news from Cornell and beyond.


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.

Alumni learn about effects of extreme weather on farming


An exhibit at Mann Library features stories of numerous farms across New York state and how they are adapting to climate change. The exhibit can be viewed in the Mann Gallery through August 2016. (Photo: Matt Hayes, CALS Communications.)

An exhibit at Mann Library features stories of numerous farms across New York state and how they are adapting to climate change. The exhibit can be viewed in the Mann Gallery through August 2016. (Photo: Matt Hayes, CALS Communications.)

Cornell Chronicle [2016-06-17]:

Thor Oechsner ’87 spent years cultivating a rich layer of topsoil essential to growing lush fields of organic wheat, rye and buckwheat. But it took just a few minutes for those years of hard work to be washed away when more than 5 inches of rain fell on his Newfield, New York, farm last summer.

Extreme weather events like the one experienced at Oechsner Farms are becoming more frequent and devastating, warned Toby Ault, assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

On June 10, he presented a Reunion Weekend lecture on extreme weather and its impacts on agriculture, held in conjunction with a Mann Library exhibit showcasing collaborations between the Cornell Climate Smart Farming program and New York state farmers.

In New York, warming temperatures will alter the growing seasons and the type of crops that can be farmed, with increased risks for flash floods, Ault said. In the southwestern U.S., the problems are likely to manifest as a severe and persistent lack of rainfall or prolonged drought spanning decades, known as megadrought.

“When we’re talking climate, we are talking averages and long-term trends,” Ault said. ”By the end of this year, we will have had five of the warmest years on record in just the last decade,” a consequence, he said, of using the atmosphere as a dumping ground for excess carbon dioxide produced from burning fossil fuels.

Ault pointed out that humans have long burned plant material for heat. Our modern world does the same, burning fossil fuels such as coal in order to spin turbines to produce electricity. The waste carbon dioxide produces during burning is then released into the atmosphere, and humans are now facing the consequences in the form of extreme weather events, Ault said.

Read the whole article.

Atkinson Center announces 2016 Academic Venture Fund selections

project thumbnailsCornell University’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future has announced its 2016 Academic Venture Fund selections.

Fourteen proposals were selected, for total funding of $1.5 million. The multidisciplinary researchers come from 26 departments and eight Cornell colleges/schools.

The grants will seed new approaches to some of the world’s greatest sustainability challenges. Several projects explore market-based solutions to sustainability problems, with benefits for people and the environment. Many proposals combine on-the-ground research with computational sustainability, using big data sets to create models to guide human behavior toward more sustainable oceans, forests, and energy resource management.

Learn more.

Sustainability Events at Cornell Reunion

Hot with a Chance of Megadrought: Anticipating the Extremes of a Changing Climate
Friday, June 10: 10:00, 160 Mann Library

Dr. Toby Ault, assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences,  will discuss his work with climate model projections and paleoclimate data.  Prof. Ault’s findings suggest a significant risk of megadrought—drought conditions lasting more than 10, 25, even 50 years. His talk is presented in conjunction with the exhibit  ”Climate Smart Farming: New York State Farmers in Their Own Words” showcasing recent collaborations between the Cornell Institute for Climate Change and Agriculture (CICCA) and New York State farmers to encourage climate-smart farming strategies in the region. 

A Recipe for Restoring Earth—Just Add Water: Regenerating Grasslands in China and the US Great Plains
Friday, June 10: 11:00, Ives Hall – Pepsico Auditorium

The Class of ’61 Forum features Rebecca Schneider and Stephen Morreale in a discussion about their research and field experiments in Northern China involving restoration of degraded and desertified soils critical for food and water security. Schneider and Morreale are married colleagues in the Department of Natural Resources at CALS, and both are Fellows in the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. Their research has centered on jump-starting the restoration of highly degraded agricultural grasslands along the Yellow River in the Ningxia Autonomous Region, near Inner Mongolia.

Genomics and the Future of Agriculture
Friday, June 10, 2016 at 1:00pm to 2:30pm – Kennedy Hall, David L. Call Alumni Auditorium

This year’s Liberty Hyde Bailey Lecture is presented in honor of professor emeritus Steve Tanksley, winner of the 2016 Japan Prize, three former lab members – Greg MartinJim Giovannoni, and Susan McCouch – will celebrate his contributions to plant breeding and genetics and the spirit of genomic discovery in the School of Integrative Plant Science with a panel discussion on genomics and the future of agriculture.

Cornell Sustainability/Energy Facilities Tours
Friday, June 10: 9-11:00, various locations (tours every half hour – must provide own transportation)

  • Cornell Snyder Road Solar Farm 800 Snyder Road, Lansing NY
  • Human Ecology Building 37 Forest Home Drive
  • Hydroelectric Plant 319 Fall Creek Drive
  • Lake Source Cooling 961 East Shore Drive
  • Water Filtration Plant 101 Caldwell Road

Sustainability at Cornell Plantations Tour
Friday, June 10: 2-3:00, Cornell Plantations – Nevin Welcome Center

Take a tour with environmental education specialist Donna Levy to visit and learn about three areas that demonstrate sustainable practices and concepts at Cornell Plantations: the LEED Gold-certified Nevin Welcome Center, the Bioswale Garden, and the Climate Change Demonstration Garden. Free parking is available at the Nevin Welcome Center, or you can ride a Reunion shuttle to the Dairy Bar/Stocking Hall on Tower Road and walk down the footpath from there. We are also an easy to moderate walk from most points on campus.