From shifting weather patterns that alter food availability to rising sea levels that displace homes and families, climate change is impacting communities and ecosystems all over the world at an unprecedented scale. In 2022 Cornell University launched The 2030 Project: A Cornell Climate Initiative, to tackle problems like these—bringing together the full breadth of Cornell’s transdisciplinary expertise to transform research, insights, and discovery into impactful, large-scale solutions. Less than a year after its launch, donors have already responded with more than $146 million in support of the project.
Benjamin Houlton, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) shared that CALS received a gift of $9.9 million from the Bezos Earth Fund to create virtual fencing systems to reduce the environmental impacts of grazing livestock. Additionally, proceeds from a newly announced Dead & Company benefit concert at Barton Hall will support The 2030 Project.
“The Cornell community is mobilizing the ambitions, expertise, and infrastructure of a top-tier research institution to support climate solutions in this decisive decade for global action,” said Ben Furnas, executive director of The 2030 Project: A Cornell Climate Initiative, “And we are just getting started.”
Two core values guide the project: climate action that leaves no one behind and scaling local action to global action.
As climate change continues to worsen, dangerous weather events have become more frequent, affecting crop yields and food security. But it’s not just the weather that is impacting crop yields. As the climate continues warming, pests and diseases spread more widely, adding even more unpredictability.
Faculty and students across Cornell’s campuses are working on transdisciplinary and comprehensive climate solutions. They are creating the next generation of climate-resilient crops, preparing cities for extreme weather events, and expediting our transition to cleaner energy alternatives.
Accelerating the clean energy transition
Fuel cells combine hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity through an electrochemical reaction, emitting only water and heat. Although significantly more efficient than the internal combustion engines used by gasoline and diesel vehicles, most current fuel cells depend on expensive materials such as platinum which has largely deterred further exploration.
Héctor Abruña, the Émile M. Chamot Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology in the College of Arts and Sciences and director of the Energy Materials Center at Cornell, in collaboration with other Cornell researchers, has been exploring the development of alkaline-based fuel cell technology—a much more affordable alternative. Abruña’s interdisciplinary approach to the study of electrochemical systems was supported in 2018 by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science through a four-year, $10.75 million grant used to create the Center for Alkaline-Based Energy Solutions (CABES), which Abruña leads.
The group’s discoveries over the last four years have advanced the field and have brought us closer to a reality where fuel cells can be used on a large scale to help battle climate change. In 2022, CABES received renewed funding of $12.6 million from the DOE for another four years to continue its efforts toward developing advanced fuel cell technologies in alkaline media.
In 2022, Abruña was awarded an additional $8.3 million in support of his research related to fuel cells and advanced battery technologies. The new funding will help further drive innovation in the field and translate the group’s research into fuel-cell and battery-powered vehicles. It will also help create a small fleet of fuel-cell and battery-powered (EV) cars along with a renewable “green” hydrogen fueling station and EV fast chargers.
“This is much more than fundamental research, but rather a demonstration project that will make these technologies available to the Cornell community,” Abruña said. “It will be a true living laboratory, providing access to both battery and fuel-cell operated cars to the Cornell community.”
Fuel cells offer a promising technology that could be applied to power systems as large as utility power stations or as small as personal laptops.
The example above is just one of the university’s many collaborations and advancements toward realizing lasting climate innovations. To learn more about the 2030 Project, visit climate.cornell.edu.