Recent news of shipping routes cutting through Alaska and dwindling polar bear populations may cause us to lose hope in our fight against global warming. Cornell, however, is joining other universities across America to do its part in reducing its carbon output.
On Feb. 22, President David J. Skorton signed the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment. He was prompted to sign this commitment by a petition organized by KyotoNOW!, a student environmentalist organization.
“I think KyotoNOW!’s involvement was instrumental in President Skorton’s signing,” said Katherine McEachern ’09, president of KyotoNOW!.
The petition included 4,700 student signatures, 91 faculty signatures and 18 student organization endorsements.
The American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment provides a defined plan for colleges to reduce their carbon footprints and mandates that Cornell take at least two specific actions to reduce greenhouse gases while a more comprehensive plan is being developed.
“In order to implement a plan, the commitment requires us to form an administrative structure to complete the job,” said Prof. Tim Fahey, natural resources.
The Commitment mandates that Cornell initiate a plan to achieve neutrality as soon as possible. In order to do this, Steve Golding, vice president of facilities, and Carolyn Ainslie, vice president for planning and budget, appointed a task team called the President’s Climate Commitment Implementation Committee. This committee was created on Feb. 11 and is comprised of 13 people. Two are members of KyotoNOW!, and the rest are a collection of undergraduate and graduate students, members of the administration, utilities and faculty, as well co-chairs Fahey and Kyu Whang, vice president of facilities services.
PCCIC member Lanny Joyce, manager of engineering, planning and energy management, explained that the PCCIC is working toward fulfilling the commitment.
“The first thing we’re working on is creating an inventory,” said Joyce.
According to Joyce, in order to become carbon neutral, Cornell must first know how much carbon it is producing.
“We are currently auditing major emission sources . . . [and] we’ll have to include smaller sources,” said Joyce, who also pointed out that Cornell would have to factor air travel and commute for faculty and students into its inventory.
Joyce also stated that, in its effort to complete its commitment, the University will buy as many new Energy Star-labelled appliances as possible. These new appliances will have some impact on lessening Cornell’s carbon output. He also said that the PCCIC is further encouraging commuter options on campus.
Skorton has appointed Dean Koyanagi ’90 to be full-time sustainability coordinator. Koyanagi represents Cornell at sustainability consortiums with other academic institutions and sustainability groups. Koyanagi discusses how different institutions can work together at creating a sustainable environment, and he brings these ideas back to Cornell.
“We are working on the things that are current and can be done in the next two to three years,” said Koyanagi.
To some students, Cornell’s efforts toward becoming more environmentally sound are promising steps toward carbon neutrality.
“I am personally satisfied because the President [Skorton] has been talking about it regularly,” said Carlos Rymer ’08, vice president of KyotoNOW!.