Seminar series addresses grand challenge of climate change

Cornell Chronicle February 15, 2021
a view of Beebe Lake on a sunny day

The 2021 Climate Change Series provides a range of perspectives on the science of climate change and its implications for agriculture, ecosystems, and food systems and offers significant economic, ethical, and policy insights.

This university-wide seminar series, now in its sixth year, is led by Peter Hess, professor and director of graduate studies in the department of biological and environmental engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The series is unique in the range and breadth of topics it covers concerning climate change. It began with the recognition that not only does Cornell have a tremendous depth in climate change expertise spread across the campus, but that climate change will have an increasingly significant presence in the lives of today’s students.

University-wide seminar provides important views on the critical issue of climate change, drawing from many perspectives and disciplines. Series begins Monday, February 15, 2021.

“We owe our students, and the community at large, a broad education in climate change,” says Hess. “This seminar series brings in the brightest minds from across the world in different disciplines to understand the difficulty and complexity of climate change and the innovations already in progress to solve this problem. Students, faculty, and Ithaca residents have told me how much they enjoy and learn from the seminar series.”

In addition to live seminars, there is an impressive library of recorded talks on many aspects of climate change by a wide range of scholars, both from inside Cornell and outside.

The series begins on Monday, February 15, with Ariel Ortiz-Bobea, assistant professor of applied economics and policy in the Dyson School, who will share research on anthropogenic climate change on agricultural productivity growth. 

On February 22, Benjamin Z. Houlton, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, will discuss the role of enhanced weathering–the purposeful introduction of volcanic rock fines into agricultural soil–as a carbon dioxide removal strategy, with co-benefits for soil health, fertilizer use efficiency, and improved crop quality and yields. He will focus on both the state of the science and issues and opportunities surrounding enhanced weathering as a billion-ton carbon dioxide removal strategy.

On March 1, Friederike Otto, from Oxford University, will present how to calculate climate change’s impacts on the probability of rare but terrible events (e.g., Hurricane Harvey). These attribution studies are starting to become the basis for legal claims, loss, and damages assessments, and social mobilization.

“This year, as in previous years, we have an amazing list of speakers covering a diverse range of topics related to climate change: from robotic underwater vehicles exploring the stability of the Antarctic ice sheet to climate change migration, community resilience to climate change, and many more,” says Hess.

The series will run most Mondays of the spring semester from 2:45-4 PM, ET. Access is open to all. Visit Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability for a full list of speakers and Zoom information.

The seminar is organized and sponsored by the Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering and the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability.