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By Linda B. Glaser
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  • Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
  • Environment
  • Nature
  • Natural Resources
  • Climate
The Carl Sagan Institute (CSI) is getting a boost from an unexpected source: Fiat Chrysler Automotive.

The company’s advertisement for its new Wrangler 4XE plug-in hybrid features the late Cornell astronomer Carl Sagan’s famous “Pale Blue Dot” monologue and images. And how it benefits CSI: For every view of the ad on Jeep’s YouTube channel, a donation will be made to the institute.

The donation arrangement was a requirement of Sagan’s widow, Ann Druyan – a long-time collaborator and careful steward of his legacy – when she gave permission for the ad. Druyan is a CSI board member and deeply believes in its mission, she noted at the CSI inaugural ceremony in 2015.

“Honoring Carl by empowering interdisciplinary scientists to search for the answers to his most passionate scientific questioning, seeking to share that understanding with the public, and finding in that knowledge applications to life-threatening dangers here on Earth – that’s a multi-leveled and highly accurate reflection of who Carl was,” she said.

Donations from the Jeep ad will provide initial funding for a new global climate model project at CSI. Lisa Kaltenegger, CSI director and associate professor of astronomy in the College of Arts and Sciences, and Toby Ault, associate professor of earth and atmospheric sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, are co-principal investigators for the project.

Donations will be made by either clicking on the YouTube ad or contributing directly at the CSI website, Kaltenegger said.

According to Ault and Kaltenegger, the CSI Climate Model (CSICM) will honor Sagan’s legacy by breaking down scientific and cultural barriers to climate modeling, running it in the cloud so it can be virtually accessed by anyone, anywhere. The model will include scalable grids to run simulations across a wide range of geographic resolution.

In a statement, Ault and Kaltenegger said CSICM “will allow both academic researchers at CSI and amateur scientists to take greater ownership in the underlying scientific process of understanding climate change … people are more likely to accept the science of climate change when they understand the science for themselves and on their own terms.”

The researchers hope their climate model’s large-scale, community-engaged scientific endeavor will help us understand the future of what Sagan famously described as “the only home we’ve ever known.”

Linda B. Glaser is the news and media relations manager for the College of Arts and Sciences.

This article also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

Header image: Earth observation taken by the Expedition 40 crew aboard the International Space Station in 2014. Photo by NASA/Johnson Space Center.

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