September 22, 2004

Kyoto Now! Fights Global Climate Change, Pollution

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With all of the concern surrounding pollution and global climate change, it is comforting to know that there are people working on this campus to minimize environmental damage. These people include members of the Kyoto Now! energy conservation organization.

Kyoto Now! is a grassroots global climate change campaign, promoting national action through the University’s efforts. Its primary goal is to affirm that Cornell abides by the Kyoto Protocol standards for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and utilizes renewable energy.

KN! began as a subcommittee of the Cornell Greens in the spring of 2001 when the group urged Cornell to adopt the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol is an international treaty signed by many industrialized nations — not including the United States — that urges the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 7-10 percent of 1990 levels by the year 2008-2012.

The KN! Subcommittee of the Greens decided to become an independent organization because they “wanted to focus solely on energy and energy consumption at Cornell,” said active member Andrew Schatz ’05.

In April 2001, members of the subcommittee along with general Green members, held a sit-in in front of Day Hall for a week until the administration agreed to the conditions of the protocol.

Harold “Hal” Craft ’61, Cornell’s Chief Financial Officer, chartered the Kyoto Task Team following the sit-in, chaired by William “Lanny” Joyce, director of facilities and manager of Engineering, Planning and Energy Management. Today, the Task Team leads the University’s effort to reduce energy use and carbon dioxide emissions as stated by the Kyoto Protocol. This also saves Cornell money in the long-term.

So, how does the Kyoto Task Team relate to the student-run KN!? The two student representatives on the task team,currently Schatz and Lindsey Trachtenberg ’06, are members of the KN! club. The two groups also work side-by-side on various projects.

“The Kyoto Task Team oversees implementation of all the energy conservation projects …their efforts save Cornell over $7 million each year,” said Trachtenberg.

One of their accomplishments includes putting censors in rooms so that the lights will turn off when the room is vacant. “Also, they have begun retrofitting fume heads in science laboratories, which reduces excess airflow.”

The major focus of KN! and the Kyoto Task Team this semester is raising money for the Solar Fund, which was created last year by friends and family of Abigail Krich ’04, former president of KN! and a Sun columnist.

According to Schatz, the money raised will be put toward solar energy projects across campus. Solar energy is clean, renewable energy that does not emit pollution and it would save Cornell money over time.

“Solar panels produce their own energy so Cornell wouldn’t have to spend as much money on coal-based energy sources. Cornell would pay for the costs of the panels and their installation, but those are one-time expenditures,” explained Trachtenberg.

KN! works alongside organizations such as the Cornell Greens, Cornell University Renewable Energy Society, and the Society for Natural Resource Conservation to bring various lecturers to campus and raise awareness about energy conservation issues.

This semester, KN! is co-sponsoring two lectures, one of which was given yesterday by Steven Strong, TIME magazine’s “Environmental Hero of the Planet.” Known to many as the “father of solar”, he spoke to students about his incorporation of solar technology into his architectural designs.

One such project included the Olympic stadium in Atlanta, which received its energy primarily from solar panels on its roof.

“Last year on Earth Day, we had tables on Ho Plaza and a huge banner above the Cornell Store raising awareness that through the Kyoto Task Team and KN!’s efforts, we save Cornell $7 million annually,” Trachtenberg said.

Not all of KN!’s projects involve major energy changes like solar powered energy, but more simple day to day implementations.

“We also have done things like put stickers on light switches in dorms and other campus buildings, reminding students to turn lights off when they are not in use,” Trachtenberg said. “Basically we’re trying to make people aware of how much energy they use and to change their behavior to limit such use.”

KN! has about twenty active members and gets funding from the SAFC. Though it was the first student organization to promote the Kyoto Protocol of reduced greenhouse emissions and is likely the most effective, numerous other KN! organizations have sprung up across campuses nationwide.

What started as a subcommittee of a general environmental organization, has become a prominent force at Cornell, saving the University money and helping the environment at the same time.

Archived article by Erica Kerman
Sun Contributor