As we begin a new year at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, we wanted to reflect on some of the outstanding achievements of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni during 2015. 

Dozens of students received esteemed grants and honors. The largest student-run Environmental Film Festival at Yale ran for the seventh year in a row and drew in hundreds of viewers from the greater New Haven area. We welcomed more than 100 guests and lecturers from around the world, including Gro Harlem Brundtland, former prime minister of Norway and pioneer in the field of sustainable development; U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack; and His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, the second-highest ranking leader in the Buddhist faith. And we celebrated the retirement of Professor Thomas Graedel, who served at F&ES for 18 years and made Yale a global center in industrial ecology.

It is important to recognize that everyone’s added passion and perseverance — small or large — contributed significantly to the success of our school. And, more importantly, making our planet sustainable.

Here are some more highlights from 2015 at Yale F&ES:

Ground-breaking research estimates that Earth has 3 trillion trees

2015 3 trillion trees
Until last year scientists believed there were only 400 million trees globally, yet Yale researchers were determined to understand the true global extent and distribution. Inspired by the UNEP’s Billion Tree Campaign, Thomas Crowther, a Yale Climate & Energy Institute postdoctoral fellow at F&ES, and colleagues used satellite imagery, forest inventories, and modeling to map tree populations worldwide. Findings show that since the start of human civilization, the total number of trees has decreased by 46 percent. This new data will help us understand how to preserve and replenish our forests worldwide. 

New interactive maps detail climate opinions by state, county and congressional district

2015 climate mapping
Researchers at the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC) designed a statistical model that accurately estimates public climate change opinion and policy support in all 50 states, 435 Congressional districts, 3,000+ counties, and cities across the nation. They digitized this information in a user-friendly online tool — the Yale Climate Opinion Maps — that allows the public to explore climate opinions in unprecedented geographic detail. This tool has been shared more than 8,000 times on social media.

Over 60 students, faculty, and staff make history at Paris climate talks

2015 cop
At the twenty-first Conference of Parties in Paris, Yalies contributed to achieving an international climate agreement in many ways. A handful of students represented delegations, others presented new business and adaptation models to IPCC Chairman Hoesung Lee. Others spoke on panels, presented research, or provided translation. Numerous reports were released by Professors Dan Esty, Angel Hsu, and Edgar Hertwich. As Paul Lussier participated in an IPCC panel, a dozen of his students presented new ways to use humanistic communications for climate conversations. And, as part of the F&ES-based GEM Initiative (Governance, Environment and Markets Initiative), Prof. Benjamin Cashore’s students presented various decarbonization projects and pathway dependence. Ultimately, they each played a part in achieving a historic agreement, which sets an ambitious target to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Frances Beinecke leads dynamic ‘Diverse Voices’ lecture series

2015 beinecke
During the fall of 2015, Frances Beinecke, former president of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), was honored as the 2015 Dorothy S. McCluskey Fellow in Conservation at F&ES. During her seat, Beinecke invited leaders tackling environmental challenges through advocacy, policy making, academic research, and business to join her course “Diverse Voices: Environmental Leaders on Climate Change and the Environment.” Students and the public met esteemed nonprofit and business leaders such as Aaron Mair of the Sierra Club, May Boeve of 350.org, Reverend Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus, and Jon Carson of Solar City. 

Yale examines impact of Pope's historic climate encyclical

Pope Francis at Vargihna wc browser

In April, two months before Pope Francis issued a historic encyclical that called global climate action a moral imperative, F&ES co-hosted a panel discussion about the potential global impacts of the document. During the event, which was held at Yale's Linsly Chittenden Hall — and viewed online by a global audience — a range of Yale experts across several disciplines discussed whether the encyclical would be a “game-changer” in the climate debate. “The pope is saying to the world that climate change brings moral change,” said Mary Evelyn Tucker, co-director of the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology. “The health of both people and the planet will require a transformation toward care for creation and concern for future generations.” After the encyclical was released F&ES-based pollsters measured “The Francis Effect: How Pope Francis changed the conversation about global warming.”

Online courses made available to alumni for the first time

fes online course

Recognizing the critical role online learning will play in an increasingly connected world, F&ES has introduced several new online courses with integrated technology for our current students over the past few years. In 2015 for the first time the School expanded its offerings to include online certificate courses to School alumniLike the online courses offered to current students, these courses “flip” the traditional classroom model by delivering instruction online, while also allowing participants to meet with instructors and guest experts during live online discussions. F&ES alums from five continents enrolled in two six-week courses — “Tropical Forest Restoration in Human-Dominated Landscapes” or “Himalayan Diversities: Environment, Livelihoods, and Culture.” In addition to weekly lectures featuring F&ES faculty and guest experts, participants were able to communicate directly with instructors during regular online meetings. “Given our commitment to offering online courses to a wider audience, it is fitting that our own alumni would be the first group we reach out to with this exciting opportunity,” said F&ES Dean Peter Crane.

F&ES hosts high-level urban climate workshop at new Yale Center Beijing

2015 beijing
The conference focused on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and minimizing local impacts on climate change in China. Featured attendees included experts from the Chinese government, the World Bank, NRDC, WRI, IPCC scientists, and researchers from top universities in the U.S. and China. Led by F&ES Professors Karen Seto and Xuhui Lee, as well as Peng Gong of Tsinghua University, the discussion topics ranged from scalable solutions to strategies to curb urban flooding to the idea of developing “low-carbon cities” in China. 

Yale launches Carbon Charge Pilot Program

2015 carbon charge
Largely influenced by F&ES graduate students interested in using the campus as a living laboratory, Yale’s trial program will measure energy use for 20 buildings and assess a monthly carbon fee using four different carbon pricing models. F&ES’ very own LEED Platinum Kroon Hall will be included. The various units will compete against each other to earn rebates and meet specific carbon-use goals. “This experiment in carbon pricing represents another important opportunity for F&ES to provide leadership on energy efficiency — and to show the difference that every individual can make,” said F&ES Dean Crane. Beyond shutting off lights and closing windows, the true goal for this project is to motivate both personal and departmental behavior change.

First-ever Yale Environmental Sustainability Summit (YESS) inspires over 400 alumni, students, faculty and staff

2015 yess
Tom Steyer, left, and Yale President Peter Salovey.
What techniques can we use to transform our use of food, energy, and water? This was the topic of discussion at the sold-out conference hosted by Yale F&ES, the Yale School of Management and the Center for Business and the Environment at Yale and others. It served as a unique forum for Yale leaders to come together, share knowledge, experience, and best practices on sustainability. One of the main highlights was a fireside chat with Yale President Peter Salovey ’86 Ph.D. and Tom Steyer ’79 B.A., founder of the environmental advocacy organization NextGen Climate. Other speakers included Beinecke; Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund; and former EPA Administrator William Reilly. Fifteen sessions were livestreamed so remote audiences also had access. Check out the Storify feed for key insights and quotes. 

F&ES ecologist named Nat Geo Adventurer of the Year

2015 arthur
Arthur Middleton ’07 M.E.M., a Donnelley Postdoctoral Fellow at the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies, and wildlife photojournalist Joe Riis were named “Adventurers of the Year” by National Geographic for "remarkable achievement in exploration, adventure sports, conservation, and humanitarianism” through their Greater Yellowstone Migrations project. They still have a shot at winning the 2016 People’s Choice Adventurer of the Year, so get in your daily vote until January 31 here

$10.1 million raised through F&ES Scholarship Initiative

2015 scholarships
In three short years, under the guidance of F&ES Dean Crane and the School’s Leadership Council, an unprecedented number of opportunities have been created for F&ES students all over the world in various environmental disciplines. 140 new donors contributed to this initiative, 22 new endowed scholarships were created, and from 2014-2015 more than 75 current students were supported by newly raised funds. This fund will help attract elite students globally and support additional fundraising initiatives including a research campus at Yale-Myers Forest. Some current F&ES students shared their gratitude in a video first shown during the Leadership Council meeting in April.

Partnership with AP reveals insights into ‘nine Americas’

2015 nine americas
In 2015 F&ES continued its collaboration with the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research to assess the environmental views of Americans. The inaugural poll found a majority believe that protecting the environment actually improves economic growth and provides new jobs. It showed that 6 out of 10 Americans, including half of all Republicans, said they support regulation of CO2. And, a majority of Americans are more concerned with environmental risks from nuclear, coal, and oil than wind and solar. The newest data explores nine segments of the American public, which range from “Liberal Greens” on the environmentally friendly side to the “Conservative Browns” on the more anti-environmentalism side (pictured above). 
Dana Patterson ’16 M.E.M. is a second-year student at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.
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PUBLISHED: January 6, 2016
 

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