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Climate Change Seminar - The Role of Land Use in Climate Change

Monday, March 14, 2016 at 3:35pm to 4:35pm

Plant Science Building, 233

Led by: Natalie Mahowald (Earth & Atmospheric Sciences)


Abstract:  Most of the effort to control climate change is, correctly, focused on energy policy, because of the huge amount of carbon dioxide potentially emitted by fossil fuels over the next few centuries.  In this talk we discuss the additional and complicated role of land use on climate change.   In the short and medium-term, fossil fuel and land use contribute to climate change through emissions of green house gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.  In addition both energy production and land use and land cover change cause emissions of aerosols, which cool the planet.  Changing land from forests to croplands or grasslands can cool the planet, because a change in the albedo.  In the longer term, only emissions of carbon dioxide will matter.   On longer time scales, land use and land cover change that occurs today reduces the future natural sinks of anthropogenic carbon in forests.  Including these effects indicates that on short to longtime scales, per ton of carbon emitted, land use contributes 2x as much warming as energy production.  Thus, although energy policy should remain the emphasis in negotiations, land use policies can play an important role in reducing climate change forcing.  


The 2016 Cornell University Climate Change Seminar meets Monday afternoons through May 9. This university-wide seminar provides important views on the critical issue of climate change, drawing from many perspectives and disciplines. Experts from both Cornell University and other universities will present an overview of the science of climate change and climate change models, the implications for agriculture, ecosystems, and food systems, and provide important economic, ethical, and policy insights on the issue.

The seminar is free and open to the Cornell and Ithaca Community at large, and will be videotaped and available via Webex.

Organized and sponsored by the Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering, the Cornell Institute for Climate Change and Agriculture, and the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future

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Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability, Sustainability



Natalie Mahowald

Speaker Affiliation

Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

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