U.A. Discusses Feasibility of 2035 Carbon Neutrality

Responding to resolutions from U.A. and the Provost, a new report details options to reach carbon neutrality on campus by 2035...

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University Assembly reviews efforts on renaming the Cornell Plantations. (Adrian Boteanu / Sun Staff Photographer)
University Assembly (Adrian Boteanu / Sun Staff Photographer)

By Shauna Cheatham via The Cornell Daily Sun, 10/5/16

Carbon Neutral by 2035

The U.A. discussed the possibility of completely eliminating Carbon emissions on Cornell’s Ithaca campus by 2035, a plan that has been supported in varying degrees by a succession of Cornell presidents.

Prof. Robert Howarth, ecology and evolutionary biology, a faculty representative, spoke on behalf of the Senior Leadership Climate Action Group, detailing a report that was released on Tuesday. The report outlined different strategies to make Cornell a carbon neutral campus.

“We are encouraging the community to look at this as a big step forward about how carbon neutrality will be reached,” Howarth said.

Howarth explained that over 60 percent of Cornell’s total emissions come from heating the campus, and said research universities use about twice as much energy as teaching institutions because of the intensity of energy they require.

“It’s a challenge,” said Howarth. “We live in a cold climate. We are perhaps the largest university in a cold climate that has agreed to do this.”

Howarth explained that there are two ways of heating the campus. One, he said, is deep resource heating. This would involve drilling down a few kilometers into the earth where it is naturally hot, and extracting heat in a closed loop system. The second and more expensive option required shallow ground heat pumps.

Howarth said that both of these options exceed the total allocated energy budget of 42 million dollars a year.

Still, he maintained that the University is committed to moving ahead with more sustainable options, stressing their environmental benefits.

“One should consider the impact of methane when we use natural gas a fuel,” Howarth said. “The carbon footprint is much higher when we consider this.”

Howarth explained that economists were brought in to calculate the cost of greenhouse gas accounting and emphasized that the University has enough engineering talent to arrive at an efficient and effective solution.

“The University Assembly is one of the groups that pushed hard for the provost to take this on,” he said.

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