Campus Sustainability News

News on campus sustainability initiatives, emerging programs, rankings, awards, student initiatives, green teams, and more from across the Cornell University campus.

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a student wearing a mask while on her computer

A live virtual event focused on preventing future pandemics, recognizing that human health is inextricably linked to the health of wildlife, livestock and the environment, will be moderated by New York Times journalist Thomas L. Friedman with a keynote address from noted naturalist Jane Goodall. The webinar, titled “Emerging Disease, Wildlife Trade and Consumption, and the Need for Robust Global Governance: Exploring Ways to Prevent Pandemics,” will take place Feb. 23 from 9 a.m. to noon and is co-hosted by the College of Veterinary Medicine, the World Wildlife Fund and the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability.

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 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," says Professor Peter Hess, who leads the seminars.

Bill Nye ’77 (left) and marine biologist and conservation expert Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson (right) discussed climate solutions at the December New York Sustainability Conference.

Cornell is teaming up with climate justice leaders to build sustainability efforts across the University community, reviving its commitment to the environment in light of the pandemic and worldwide movements for racial and social equality. In collaboration with the New York Coalition for Sustainability in Higher Education and Ithaca College, Cornell hosted the 2020 State of New York Sustainability Conference in December, featuring well-known figures in the science community, including Bill Nye ’77, Sen. Rachel May (D-N.Y.) and marine biologist and conservation expert Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson. 

Deforestation in the Amazon has dramatically increased in recent years, threatening the ecosystem and local communities.

The Amazon River Basin is under threat, largely at the hands of humans. To help change that, Prof. Carla Gomes, computer science, Prof. Alexander Flecker, ecology and evolutionary biology, and Rafael Almeida, postdoctoral researcher with the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, designed an interdisciplinary research project to inform policymakers of the environmental consequences of human actions. 

Through installations of flood gates, walls to block water and drainage system cleaning, residents worked to remain in place amid evolving risk, Cornell research has found.

Despite severe, frequent flooding in coastal regions in the Philippines due to climate change, most residents do not consider migration as a short-term solution, according to new Cornell research. Lindy Williams, professor of global development and a member of the Migrations Lab, profiled two cities, one in Luzon and one in Bulacan, as they face the risks and consequences of frequent flooding.

Dimension Energy demonstrates their reactor where carbon dioxide meets sunlight to create environmentally friendly fuel.

Dimensional Energy – a Cornell McGovern Center startup company that can capture industrial carbon dioxide and then convert it by way of sunshine into an environmentally friendly products like aviation fuel – has emerged as one of two finalists in the $20 million Carbon X Prize competition.

wind turbines in the ocean

 Cornell wind energy scientists have released a new global wind atlas – a digital compendium filled with documented extreme wind speeds for all parts of the world –  to help engineers select the turbines in any given region and accelerate the development of sustainable energy.  This wind atlas is the first publicly available, uniform and geospatially explicit (datasets tied to locations) description of extreme wind speeds, according to the research, “A Global Assessment of Extreme Wind Speeds For Wind Energy Applications,” published Jan. 25 in Nature Energy.

Flowchart depicting the research field of multi-sector dynamics.

A Cornell engineer is advancing the field of ‘multi-sector dynamics’ with a new $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy that will focus on techniques for better projecting the outcomes of human interactions with the natural world. As scientists and policy makers increasingly turn toward mathematical modeling to help inform their decision making, the project aims to better predict how human systems – such as the economy, urbanization, technology, and agriculture – co-evolve with Earth systems, such as climate, natural resources and wildlife.

corals underwater

Intro to Oceanography is one of the largest and most popular classes at Cornell University, with almost 1,100 students each semester. Taught by Bruce Monger, senior lecturer in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, the era of COVID-19 and remote teaching presented Monger with an enormous challenge: How would he make his spirited lectures — peppered with climate activism and inspirational calls-to-action — as dynamic in a remote setting? Last summer, he reached out to Kathryn J. Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of CALS at the time, requesting funds to build his own in-home production studio to record lectures for Intro to Oceanography. Boor passed the request to Cornell’s senior leadership, where a new idea was born — to record the lectures with the professional support of eCornell, and in tandem, develop a publicly accessible oceanography and climate sustainability course, made available through eCornell’s online certificate programs.

Cornell campus

By delving into scientific, technological, environmental and economic data, Cornell Engineering researchers have examined whether New York could achieve a statewide carbon-free economy by 2050.

Their finding: Yes, New York can reach this goal – and do it with five years to spare.