Iowa Environmental Focus

On The Radio – Huge crowds attend March for Science rallies in Iowa and worldwide

35547430001_5407788184001_5407783726001-vsHundreds of scientists and supporters gathered at the Pentacrest for the March for Science in Iowa City on Saturday. The march was one of more than 500 others in communities around the nation. Jake Slobe | April 24, 2017

This On The Radio segment discusses the March for Science rallies that took place worldwide on Saturday, April 22.

https://iowaenvironmentalfocus.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/marchforscience_71sec.mp3

Transcript: On April 22, scientists and science advocates flooded the streets of over 500 cities around the globe to show their support for scientific research and evidence-based policy.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Following in the footsteps of the Women’s March on Washington, the March for Science was the biggest public demonstration against the Trump administration’s budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, National Institute of Health, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and more.

Since February, the momentum behind the March for Science grew quickly, with many organizations offering support. Over 100 science organizations including the American Association for the Advancement of Science supported the March for Science.

The initiative started as a scientists’ march on Washington, D.C., but has since spread to cities across the U.S. and the world.

Organizers of the march have recently announced they plan to transition from organizing marches to creating a global organization focused on science education, outreach, and advocacy.

To learn more about the march, visit iowaenvironmentalfocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global & Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.


Iowa leads midwest in clean energy momentum

Screen Shot 2017-04-21 at 7.49.44 AMThe recently released top ten list ranks states not only by current performance but also potential for clean energy development in the future. (Union of Concerned Scientists) Jenna Ladd | April 21, 2017

The Union of Concerned Scientists recently published its list of top ten states demonstrating “clean energy momentum,” and Iowa led the Midwest.

States were ranked using twelve metrics that fit into three general categories: technical progress; direct, visible effects on our daily lives; and policies to build momentum for the future. Their publication pointed out that despite recent federal rollbacks of Obama-era climate policy, great strides have been made in renewable energy development. They note that wind farms nationwide produce enough electricity to power 20 million U.S. households. Additionally, they write, enough solar electric panels were added in 2016 to power another two million houses.

The usual suspects led the pack with California at the top of the list. The Golden State is among the top performing states in eight of the metrics and is in the number one position for electric vehicle adoption. Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Oregon, Maine, Washington, New York and Iowa complete the top ten list. Iowa is the first midwestern state to appear on the list, followed by Minnesota.

Wind energy has played a fundamental role in Iowa’ development as a clean energy leader. The Hawkeye state was the first to generate more than 30 percent of its energy from wind. Iowa has already seen $11.8 billion in wind project investment alongside the creation of 8,000 new jobs. Moving forward, Iowa is expected to generate 40 percent of its energy from wind by 2020.

“While the federal government can play important roles in making efficiency, renewable energy, and vehicle electrification a national priority, states can be a consistent, powerful, positive force as well,” the report read.

More information about the rankings and the full report can be found here.


March 2017 breaks temperature records, even without El Niño

March temp(National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) Jenna Ladd | April 20, 2017

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, which is among the scientific organizations on the Trump Administration’s budget chopping block, has reported yet another global warming record.

March 2017 was the first time ever that a monthly average temperature was more than 1°C above average in the absence of an El Niño event. During El Niño episodes the ocean-atmosphere system in the Tropical Pacific moves in different ways that result in warmer than usual temperatures worldwide. Record warmth in the absence of El Niño suggests that human-induced climate change is to blame.

NOAA’s March 2017 report revealed that warmer and much-warmer-than-average temperatures were measured for much of Earth’s land and oceanic surfaces. The U.S. mainland, Europe, Russia, Mongolia, and Australia saw the hottest month, where departures from average temperatures were +3.0°C (+5.4°F) or more. Some regions such as western Canada and Alaska did experience a colder than usual year but no cool weather records were set.

According to a continental analysis by NOAA, four of the six continents experienced a top seven warm March since records began in 1910. Europe and Oceania had their second hottest March on record, despite the absence of an El Niño even this year.

 

The first three months of 2017, January through March, have already proven to be the second warmest on record. Only 2016 had higher average temperatures, but that was an El Niño year. Even more notably, the first three months of 2017 have been significantly warmer than January through March of 2015, which was also an El Niño year.

Zeke Hausfather is a climate scientist at University of California, Berkeley and commented on the report in an interview with the Associated Press. He said, “If El Niño were the main driver of record warmth, there is no way the last three months would have been as warm as they have been.”


Budget bill defunding ISU’s Leopold Center goes to Branstad

Leopold-Foundation-entrance-sign

Jake Slobe | April 19, 2017

The Iowa Legislature on Tuesday gave final approval to a budget bill that would zero out funding and dismantle Iowa State University’s Leopold Center for Sustainable AgricultureSenate File 510 is now headed to Gov. Terry Branstad’s office.

The Legislature’s agriculture budget for 2018 directs $38.8 million to state programs through the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the Department of Natural Resources and the Board of Regents. That’s a reduction of about $4.3 million from the 2016 budget year.

Republican lawmakers said getting rid of the Leopold Center was part of difficult decisions necessitated by a tight budget and lagging revenue. They said other priorities took precedence.

Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, D-Ames, offered an amendment that would have kept the program open, but it was voted down by the House’s Republican majority.

Rep. Scott Ourth, D-Ackworth, also criticized a reduction in funding to the state’s Resource Enhancement And Protection program, which supports projects that enhance and protect the state’s natural and cultural resources. State money to that program will be reduced from $16 million this year to $12 million next year.

The budget bill represents a piece of the state’s broader $7.24 billion general fund budget. Lawmakers have begun finalizing multiple pieces of that budget, clearing the way for them to adjourn the session.

Republican leaders of the subcommittee said they had to cut the budget, and that K-12 education was the priority.

The move to defund  Leopold Center was one that caught many in the agricultural community off guard when proposed last week.

“This is a real blow to farmers,” said Aaron Heley Lehman, president of the Iowa Farmers Union and a member of the board of directors at the Leopold Center.

“A lot of people felt that the mission for sustainable agriculture that they (the Leopold Center) undertook, that they have completed that mission,” said Rep. Cecil Dolecheck, according to the Associated Press.

That couldn’t be further from the truth, said Ralph Rosenberg, executive director of the Iowa Environmental Council and a former legislator who helped write the law establishing the Leopold Center 30 years ago.

“I’m not sure people realize how valuable the Leopold Center is,” Rosenberg said.

 

Other advoactes of the center pointed out that the Leopold Center leverages significant federal research dollars and that it looks at items such as water quality.

The Des Moines Register had an opinion piece written by Jerry DeWitt, Iowa View contributor, about how most of the brunt from defunding the Leopold Center will fall on farmers.

“The continued support of the Leopold Center will better arm thousands of farmers as they struggle to protect water quality. Let’s make sure we fully understand the long-term ramifications of sending our farmers to the table with an empty hand. ”

 


U.S. energy flow chart reveals the good and the bad

lbnl_energy_spaghetti_2017(Lawerence Livermore National Laboratory) Jenna Ladd | April 18, 2017

Each year since 2010, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has released an energy flow chart that illustrates sources of U.S. energy, what it’s used for and how much of it goes to waste.

The 2016 energy flow chart quantifies energy use in British Thermal Unit “quads,” which is shorthand for quadrillion or one thousand trillion. A British Thermal Unit (BTU) is equal to the amount of energy required to raise one pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit. Americans used 97.3 quads of energy in 2016, which is about 0.1 quadrillion BTU more than last year.

The gray box on the upper right-hand corner of the graphic depicts just how much of that energy was wasted this year: 66.4 quadrillion BTU or 69 percent of all energy produced. It is important to remember that per the second law of thermodynamics, when raw materials are converted into energy, some energy is always lost to heat. In other words, no reaction is 100 percent efficient.

Since the 1970’s, wasted energy has surged in the United States due to a rapid increase in personal electricity consumption and private vehicular transportation, which are both extremely inefficient. Roughly 75 of the energy generated for private transportation and two-thirds of energy required for electricity goes to waste.

This year’s energy flow chart was not all bad news. Coal use fell by nine percent nationwide. That supply was replaced by rapid growth in wind, solar and natural gas energy production. Wind and solar energy did particularly well, with wind energy up 19 percent and solar energy up 38 percent.

Fossil fuel consumption for transportation rose by 2 percent this year, but residential, commercial and industrial energy use all decreased slightly. In all, the U.S. is slowly moving away from fuels that emit greenhouse gases. Total carbon dioxide emissions fell by 4.9 percent in 2016. It is uncertain, however, whether this trend will continue under the Trump administration.


Warm Gulf of Mexico Waters could cause more spring storms

imrsSea surface temperature difference from average. (WeatherBell.com) Jake Slobe | April 17, 2017

This On The Radio segment discusses the abnormally warm temperature of the Gulf of Mexico this winter and the potential effect on springtime storms.

https://iowaenvironmentalfocus.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/gulfofmexicowater_81sec1.wav

Gulf of Mexico waters have been exceptionally warm, which could mean explosive springtime storms.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

 This winter, the average sea surface temperature of the Gulf of Mexico never fell below 73 degrees for the first time on record.  Water temperatures at the surface of the Gulf of Mexico and near South Florida are on fire. The warm waters caused historically warm winter in the southern United States and could fuel intense thunderstorms in the spring throughout the southern and central U.S. While this relationship is far from absolute, scientists have found that when the Gulf of Mexico tends to be warmer than normal, there is more energy for severe storms and tornadoes to form than when the Gulf is cooler.

A study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters in December found that the warmer the Gulf of Mexico sea surface temperatures, the more hail and tornadoes occur during March through May over the southern U.S.

The implications of the warm water for hurricane season are less clear. Warmer than normal water temperatures can make tropical storms and hurricanes more intense, but wind shear and atmospheric moisture levels often play more important roles in hurricane formation.

To learn more about the warm water temperatures and their effects, visit iowaenvironmentalfocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.


CGRER’s future threatened

IATL-130911-TJ-05-2

Today, CGRER Co-Directors Jerry Schnoor and Greg Carmichael released a statement about a budget proposal from the Iowa General Assembly that funds CGRER:

Dear CGRER members,

Yesterday, we learned that a budget proposal from the Iowa General Assembly sunsets funding the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research (CGRER) and the Iowa Energy Center on July 1, 2022.

This would effectively eliminate the work of CGRER; which supports $225,000 in environmental research grants to Iowa universities and colleges throughout the state each year; garners approximately $20 million for Iowa in new external research grants; and supports graduate students traveling to important research sites and presenting their findings at leading conferences.  CGRER researchers continue to make major discoveries that add to the fund of knowledge, create jobs, and help improve and protect human health and the environment.  We hope the Iowa General Assembly will reconsider this decision in order to continue to serve the economic and environmental interests of the state.

With so much at stake, we are reaching out to interested parties to encourage them to communicate with their state legislators about the value of the state’s investment in environmental research.

We urge you to contact your state senator and state representative TODAY to share your concerns. 

You can call your legislators at the Capitol. The Senate switchboard number is 515-281-3371, and the House switchboard number is 515-281-3221. You can also find your legislators and their emails at https://www.legis.iowa.gov/

Let us know if you have any questions.

Thank you for your support!

Jerry Schnoor
Greg Carmichael
Co-Directors
Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research


Iowa legislators restore funding for Iowa Flood Center in amended budget proposal

2582009838_f6b16644fd_oThe Iowa Flood Center was established after the devastating flood of 2008. (Alan Light/flickr) Jenna Ladd | April 14, 2017

The Iowa legislature has amended its 2018 budget proposal to restore $1.2 million in funding to the Iowa Flood Center.

The 2018 fiscal year budget plan was released earlier this week. The education spending bill proposed by Republicans included $20 million in cuts and originally featured a $1.5 million decrease in funding for the flood center. Wednesday evening the House Appropriations committee reinstated 2018 funding for the flood center by transferring $950,000 out of general appropriations to the University of Iowa and another $250,000 from a National Guard educational assistance program.

Representative Ashley Hinson, a Republican from Marion, worked as a news anchor, reporter and producer for KCRG-TV9 in Cedar Rapids during the 2008 floods. He said, “I do know the value of the Flood Center to Cedar Rapids and Linn County, and immediately started having those conversations about its importance to our area specifically with our budget chairs and other appropriations committee members.”

Some Democrats are not pleased with the decision to transfer funds from the University of Iowa, calling it “robbing Peter to pay for Paul.” 

“The solution we found was based on trying to balance our priorities with a tough budget year,” responded Hinson. He added, “It was also my understanding that the Flood Center was a ‘priority’ for the University of Iowa, which is why we felt it appropriate to essentially have them share in funding it. I’m happy we were able to find a solution within our current budget constraints.”


Iowa Flood Center endangered by state budget proposal

Screen Shot 2017-04-12 at 11.09.31 AMThe Iowa Flood Center’s Iowa Flood Information System provides an easy way for Iowans to access real-time flood and rainfall information. (Iowa Flood Center) Jenna Ladd | April 13, 2017

The Iowa Legislature released a budget proposal on Tuesday that would effectively close down the Iowa Flood Center at the University of Iowa.

The proposed budget cuts would eliminate $1.5 million in state funding for the Iowa Flood Center (IFC), which was established by the legislature shortly after floods devastated much of eastern Iowa in 2008.

Dave Wilson is Johnson County Emergency Manager. He said, “Before the floods of 2008, it was hard to communicate the risk to the public in a form they can understand. Pulling the funding for that project would be shortsighted. I’m kind of shocked they are even considering it.”

Slashed funding would mean that the center’s Iowa Flood Information System (IFIS) would also be shut down, according to a statement by IFC’s co-directors Larry Weber and Witold Krajewski. IFIS is an online tool that provides free, user-friendly access to “flood alerts and flood forecasts, more than 250 IFC real-time river and stream gauge sensors, more than 50 soil moisture/temperature sensors, flood inundation maps for 22 Iowa communities and rainfall products for the entire state.”

The center is also in the middle putting a $96 million federal grant to use through the Iowa Watershed Approach. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Disaster Resilience grant is currently funding flood mitigation and water quality improvement projects in nine Iowa watersheds.

State Representative Art Staed of Cedar Rapids serves on the Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management’s Flood Mitigation Board. Staed said, “We have repeatedly witnessed the devastating impact that floods have on our Iowa communities and it’s our responsibility as state lawmakers to work with local communities to minimize and mitigate flooding and the resulting damage to life and property.”

The proposed budget would not decrease funding for K-12 education, which is expected receive a 1.1 percent budget increase this year. However, it does eliminate $397,000 in state funding for the Iowa State University Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.

IFC co-directors urged concerned citizens to contact state legislators to express support for the continuation flood center funding. They write, “This bill is expected to move very quickly so it is imperative you reach out as soon as possible.”


Integrating art and science: Climate Narrative Project explores new ways to communicate environmental issues

Jeff Biggers introduces the Fellows that took part in the Spring 2015 Climate Narrative Project. (Photo by Bethany Nelson) Jake Slobe | April 12, 2017

In this episode of EnvIowa, we talk with Jeff Biggers, writer in residence at the University of Iowa and Natalie Himmel, an English and International Studies Major at the University of Iowa about the Climate Narrative Project.

https://iowaenvironmentalfocus.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/enviowa_climatenarrativeproject.mp3

The Climate Narrative Project, launched in 2014, is a special media arts initiative through the UI Office of Sustainability designed to train a new generation of climate storytellers. The project reaches across many academic disciplines using theatre, film, creative writing, spoken word poetry, yoga, and dance to grapple with how stories can change the way we view climate and spur action.

Over the past three years, Climate Narrative fellows have produced a wide variety of art projects including short films, theatrical monologs, and creative writing pieces. The projects center around localized themes related to climate change. Past themes have included the role of water and the Iowa River, soil carbon sequestration and prairie restoration, local food and regenerative agriculture, and climate migration.

This semester the project will focus on exploring ways in which we can live in regenerative cities in an age of climate change.

Since its inception, the Climate Narrative Project has brought in a wide range of undergraduates and grad students from many Colleges and departments including the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, College of Education, College of Engineering, College of Public Health, Tippie College of Business and Graduate College.

The Climate Narrative Project serves as a partner for the Yale Climate Connections nationally syndicated public radio program. In 2014, Yale featured the Climate Narrative Project: Climate As Local Narrative.

To learn more about the fellows and see the Climate Narrative Project outlines, discussions, and an archived research from previous projects visit https://sustainability.uiowa.edu/initiatives/climate-narrative-project/.

EnvIowa is available on iTunes and Soundcloud and a complete archive of previous episodes can be found here.

 


2017 Provost’s Global Forum: Women’s Health & Environment

pgf_2017_web_graphic

Jake Slobe | April 11, 2017

The University of Iowa will host scholars, experts, and researchers from around the world  this week as part of the 2017 Provost’s Global Forum, “Women’s Health & Environment: Going Up in Smoke” The goal of the Provost’s Global Forum is to inspire discussions of global affairs and build relationships between the university and the state of Iowa.

Wednesday, April 12
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. – Joel Barkan Memorial Lecture
Presentation by Gautam Yadama
Senate Chamber, Old Capitol Museum
2:30 – 4:30 p.m. – Display and demonstrations of cookstoves
Anne Cleary Walkway
7:30 – 9:00 p.m. – WorldCanvass: Women’s Health and the Environment: Going Up in Smoke

Thursday, April 13
8:30 – 9:45 a.m. – Keynote Presentation
Kirk Smith, Professor of global & environmental health, University of California,
Senate Chamber, Old Capitol Museum
10:00 – 12:45 p.m. – Panel I: Carbon, Climate Change, and Biomass Use
Senate Chamber, Old Capitol Museum
2:15 – 5:00 p.m. –  Panel II: Global Health Effects of Emissions from Biofuels
Pappajohn Business Building, Room W151
7:30 p.m. Screening of film: “What the Health”
Iowa Memorial Union, Iowa Theater

Friday, April 14
8:15 – 9:00 a.m. – Keynote Presentation
Atul Jain, professor, department of atmospheric sciences, University of Illinois
Becker Communication Studies Building, Room #101
9:00 – 12:30 p.m. – Panel III: Policy and Fuel Use in Developing Countries
Becker Communication Studies Building, Room #101
12:30 – 12:45 p.m. – Concluding Comments
Becker Communication Studies Building, Room #101
3:00 – 4:30 p.m. – Panel Discussion: “Writing About Climate Change”
Becker Communication Studies Building, Room #101

Starting the conference will be Gautam Yadama, assistant vice chancellor for international affairs and dean of Boston College School of Social Work will deliver the Joel Barkan Memorial Lecture on Wednesday, April 12, at 11:00 a.m., in the Senate Chamber in the UI Old Capitol Museum. Forum organizers will host a display and demonstration of cookstoves on the T. Anne Cleary Walkway from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., followed in the evening by a live production of WorldCanvass from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. in the Voxman Music Building. This televised discussion is hosted by Joan Kjaer and will feature many of the forum’s keynote speakers and scholars.

On Thursday, April 13, Kirk Smith, professor of global environmental health at University of California, Berkeley, will provide a second keynote presentation at 8:30 a.m. in the Senate Chamber, followed by expert-led panel discussions from 10:00 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Afternoon panel discussions will take place from 2:15 to 5:00 p.m. in the Pappajohn Business Building, room W151. Topics will range from discussions concerning climate change, global health impacts, and technology alternatives to wood-burning cookstoves. The day will conclude with a special film screening of the documentary What the Health at 7:30 p.m. at the Iowa Theater in the Iowa Memorial Union.

The final day of the forum, Friday, April 14, will take place at the Becker Communication Studies Building from 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with panel discussions focused on clean cookstove programs, prospects for the future, as well as a special panel on the topic of writing about climate change.

All events are free and open to the public. For more information about events and to learn more about those involved in the forum, visit international.uiowa.edu/up-in-smoke.

 


On The Radio – CLE4R project continues to improve air quality and educate Iowans

AirBeamDiagramIn an effort to educate Iowans about particulate air pollution, CLE4R has made Air Beam air quality monitors available for check out at the Dubuque Public Library, Dubuque Community School Districts and at the University of Iowa. (Taking Space) Jake Slobe | April 10, 2017

This week’s On The Radio segment discusses CLE4R, a collaborative project to improve air quality in the city of Dubuque and nearby communities.

https://iowaenvironmentalfocus.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/cle4r_project_105sec.mp3

Transcript: Clean Air in the River Valley, also known as CLE4R, has continued working to improve air quality in the Upper Mississippi River Valley.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The IIHR—Hydroscience and Engineering project, founded in October of 2015, is a collaborative effort between the University of Iowa, the city of Dubuque, and surrounding communities. Air pollution featuring particulate matter that is smaller than 2.5 microns leads to unhealthy air during at least part of the year for much of the Upper Mississippi River Valley.

Over the last two years, CLE4R has educated more than 1,000 Iowans about air quality. Notably, the project has made hand-held particulate pollution monitors available for checkout from the City of Dubuque and the Dubuque Community School District.

Dr. Charles Stanier, University of Iowa associate professor of chemical and biochemical engineering, is director of the program.

“Air quality is important in Iowa, especially air quality associated with fine particles or have that can get into the deep lung. When particles get into the deep lung they effect cardiovascular health and when air is clean people have better outcomes for cardiovascular diseases like emphysema and COPD as well as lower absenteeism and lower disability.”

CLE4R project representatives will be present at both the Dubuque STEM festival and the Iowa City STEAM festival the weekend of April 22nd.

For more information about the CLE4R project, visit iowaenvironmentalfocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global & Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.

 


Neonicotinoids found in University of Iowa drinking water

activate charcoalActivated carbon filters were shown to effectively remove neonic insecticides from drinking water. (Minnesota Department of Health) Jenna Ladd | April 7, 2017

Neonicotinoids, a specific class of pesticides, has been detected for the first time ever in tap water according to a recently published study by University of Iowa scientists and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Neonics became widely used by farmers in the early 1990s, mostly because they are harmful to insects but to not other species. The pesticides are still very popular, despite mounting research that suggests they are lethal to bees and other helpful insect species.

A team of researchers compared tap water samples from the University of Iowa drinking water supply to samples from Iowa City municipal tap water samples. Tap water from each source was tested for three primary neonicotinoid types: clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam. The University of Iowa filtration system removed only a minute amount of each insecticide. In contrast, the City of Iowa City successfully removed 100 percent, 94 percent and 85 percent, respectively, of each primary neonicotinoid.

Researchers say this can be explained by the different filtration systems used in each facility. Neonicotinoids readily dissolve in water, they say, and therefore easily slip through the University’s sand filters. The city employs an activated carbon filter that successfully removes the chemicals. Dr. Gregory LeFevre, University of Iowa environmental engineer and one of the study’s authors, said that activated carbon filters can be a cost-effective way to tackle these insecticides in an interview with the Washington Post. In fact, the University purchased a small activated carbon filtration system shortly after the study wrapped up in July 2016.

Levels of neonicotinoids in University water were relatively small, ranging from 0.24 to 57.3 nanograms per liter. LeFevre said, “Parts per trillion is a really, really small concentration.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not set a limit for neonicotinoid levels in drinking water. The study’s authors argue that more research is called for to assess neonicotinoid exposure on a larger scale. LeFevre explained, “Without really good toxicity data it is hard to ascertain the scale of this, but whenever we have pesticides in the drinking water that is something that raises a flag no matter what type of concentration it is.”


Climate change decreases number of working days for Illinois farmers

Irrigation_Saturated_KernelAbortionExtreme heat and drought are becoming more common thanks to climate change, both lead to “kernel abortion” in corn plants. (Erick Larson/Mississippi State Extension) Jenna Ladd | April 6, 2017

Researchers at the University of Illinois recently released a study that predicts the impact climate change will have on agriculture in the state.

The research article, published in PLOS One, centers around one variable called “field working days.” This term refers to the days during which the weather is suitable for farmers to plant, till, monitor, or harvest crops. Adam Davis is a University of Illinois USDA Agricultural Research Service ecologist. Davis said, “Everything else flows from field working days. If you’re not able to work, everything else gets backed up. Workable days will determine the cultivars, the cropping system, and the types of pest management practices you can use. We’re simply asking, ‘Can you get in to plant your crop?”

Utilizing previously developed climate models, the researchers predicted the number of field working days for farmers in Illinois from 2046 to 2065 and from 2080 to 2099. The study modeled three possible trajectories ranging from mild to severe climate change.

Notably, the study predicts that the usual planting window for corn, April and May, will be too wet for planting in the future. Too much rain can be harmful for seedlings because it can wash them away or lead to harmful fungal and bacterial growth.

Davis said, “The season fragments and we start to see an early-early season, so that March starts looking like a good target for planting in the future. In the past, March has been the bleeding edge; nobody in their right mind would have planted then. But we’ve already seen the trend for early planting. It’s going to keep trending in that direction for summer annuals.”

While the spring months grow wetter, summer months are predicted to become drier and hotter, especially in the southern parts of Illinois. “Drought periods will intensify in mid- to late-summer under all the climate scenarios. If farmers decide to plant later to avoid the wet period in April and May, they’re going to run into drought that will hit yield during the anthesis-silking interval, leading to a lot of kernel abortion,” Davis explained.

The article offers two possible adaptations for farmers. They could opt for earlier planting of long-season varieties that should have enough time to pollinate before summer droughts, but they’d risk getting hit by a late winter storm. Or, the researchers suggest, farmers could plant short-season cultivars that are harvested prior to summer droughts. In this case, growers could be sacrificing yield due to the shorter growing season.

Either way, Davis said, farmers should begin considering how they can best adapt to the changing climate. He said, “Now is the time to prepare, because the future is here.”


Science Not Silence: March for Science set to take place in Des Moines on April 22

58af9518160cd70434a0cbde_mfs_header_iowa-p-2600x1154.png

Jake Slobe | April 5, 2017

Des Moines’ March for Science is set to take place Earth Day, April 22, and will kick off at 12 a.m. at the Iowa State Capitol.

Following in the footsteps of the Women’s March on Washington, the March for Science promises to be the biggest public demonstration against the Trump administration’s assault on evidence-based scientific research.

Since February, the momentum behind the March for Science has been growing quickly, with many organizations offering support. Some 100 science organizations such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science support the March for Science.

Des Moines’ march is part of a “global call to support and safeguard the scientific community,” as the March for Science champions publicly funded and communicated science as an integral part of everyday life.

The initiative started as a scientists’ march on Washington, D.C., but has since spread to cities across the U.S. and the world. Organizers periodically update an interactive map that shows the locations for all planned marches.

Iowa City will also be hosting a March for Science on the 22nd from 12-4. You can follow efforts for each location’s march via their individual Facebook groups.

The March for Science website includes a call to action to support scientific research: “The mischaracterization of science as a partisan issue, which has given policymakers permission to reject overwhelming evidence, is a critical and urgent matter. It is time for people who support scientific research and evidence-based policies to take a public stand and be counted.”

Those interested in participating in  one the March for Science demonstrations in Iowa or learning more about the march can do so at marchforscienceiowa.org


Wind energy continues generating economic growth in Iowa

wind jobs Jenna Ladd | April 4, 2017

The state of Iowa is projected to source 40 percent of its energy from wind by the year 2020 according to a recent report.

Navigant Consulting released an analysis last week predicting wind-related economic development in the state. According to the report, wind power is expected to provide 17,000 additional jobs and $9 billion in economic activity over the next three years. The Hawkeye state has already benefited from $11.8 billion in project investment and more than 8,000 wind-related job placements.

Kathy Law is a real estate lawyer for wind developers and comes from a long line of Iowa farmers. In an interview with Yale’s Climate Connections, she said, “I think for the most part it’s helpful just that I’m a farmer that can talk the language with the farmers.” Law pointed out that wind can provide a steady income flow for landowners. She added, “It’s a product just like our corn and soybeans. Why not harness it and benefit from it?”

Wind development in Iowa also generates tax dollars for the state. Over the next four years, wind-related projects are expected to yield $370 million in property, income and sales tax. This money, which flows into counties, helps to pay educators, pave roads and provide rural medical care.

Nationwide, wind energy provides 5.5 percent of all electricity used. In Iowa, wind provides 36 percent of electricity used. In terms of wind-energy employment, Iowa is second only to Texas and is expected to continue leading the way in renewable energy through 2020.

Tom Kiernan is CEO of the American Wind Energy Association. He said, “Wind does not provide just well-paying jobs either, many Iowans also know wind farms are the new ‘drought-resistant cash crop’ in Iowa, paying up to $20 million a year to Iowa farmers.”


On The Radio – Study reveals public opinion on climate change

mapPercentage of adults per congressional district who support strict CO2 limits on existing coal-fired power plants (NY Times) Jake Slobe | April 3, 2017

This week’s On The Radio segment discusses a new study showing public opinion on climate change.

https://iowaenvironmentalfocus.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/climatechangeopinionstudy.wav

Transcript: A study by researchers at Yale University provides the most comprehensive look yet at U.S. public opinion on climate change.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The researchers asked more than 18,000 U.S. residents questions about their beliefs regarding the existence of climate change, its causes, and climate action policy.

Seventy percent of respondents agree that climate change is happening, while only 53 percent believe it to be the result of human action. The majority of Americans—82 percent—support funding for renewable energy research.

The study also revealed that 70 percent of U.S. citizens support setting strict limits on carbon emissions from power plants. In contrast, the Trump administration has recently announced its plan to eliminate President Obama’s plan to reduce carbon emissions from the nation’s power plants by 30 percent before 2030.

For more information and to access the interactive public opinion maps, visit iowaenvironmentalfocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.

 


China responds to Trump’s climate policy rollback

15920098912_fb6669d3a4_oChina is among the world’s lead producers of both renewable energy and greenhouse gas emissions. (Jonathan Kos-Read/flickr) Jenna Ladd | March 31, 2017

China has responded to Trump’s rollback of Obama-era climate change policy via state-run media publications.

A recent state-run tabloid read, “Western opinion should continue to pressure the Trump administration on climate change. Washington’s political selfishness must be discouraged.” It continued, “China will remain the world’s biggest developing country for a long time. How can it be expected to sacrifice its own development space for those developed western powerhouses?”

China consumes more energy from coal than the rest of the world’s nations combined and is also the global leader in greenhouse gas emissions; the U.S. is in second place. China’s population measures 3.4 billion people while the U.S. population is roughly 3.3 million. China also leads the world in the exportation of renewable energy.

The Trump administration discussed the possibility of withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement after the President referred to it as a “bad deal” for the U.S. Projections from the International Energy Agency reveal that if the U.S. backed out of the Paris Climate Agreement and all other countries stuck to emission reduction goals, 10 percent of emission decrease expected from the agreement would be lost.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said, “All signatories should stick to it instead of walking away from it, as this is a responsibility we must assume for future generations.”

Exxon Mobil, the largest oil company in the U.S., echoes Xi’s sentiment. “We welcomed the Paris Agreement when it was announced in December 2015, and again when it came into force in November 2016. We have reiterated our support on several occasions,” said Peter Trelenberg, the company’s environmental policy and planning manager, in a letter to the White House.

According to a report from the United Nations, Earth is expected to warm by about 3 degrees Celsius by the end of this century – even if all nations keep their end of the Paris Agreements.


Out of desperation, scientists consider manual climate engineering

4660642387_07e2478c35_oOne geoengineering method is to release particulate matter into the air that reflects the sun’s rays and cools the Earth. (Flickr/Chris Harrison) Jenna Ladd | March 30, 2017

In light of the Trump administration’s recent rollback of President Obama’s climate change policies, some scientists are exploring controversial ways to artificially cool Earth’s climate.

The process, known as geoengineering, can include manually sucking carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or spraying particles up into the air that reflect the sun’s rays and cool the planet. The National Academy of Sciences called for more research on geoengineering back in 2015. Many reputable climate scientists are now searching for funding to conduct small, low-risk experiments to assess potential adverse effects of the intervention.

As Earth’s temperatures reach historic highs, some climate scientists view geoengineering as the best of many bad options, while others say artificially cooling the climate may discourage countries from reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

During the Obama administration, some researchers were hoping to receive government money for geoengineering research. Ted Parsons, an environmental law specialist at UCLA, said that the same researchers are weary of accepting money from Trump’s white house.

Parsons said, “To the extent you’re in a political setting where misinformation about climate change is being spread, efforts to cut emissions are being undermined or threatened, then that suggests the possibility that the risks of pursuing research of this kind might actually outweigh the benefits.”

Scientists gathered at the Forum on U.S. Solar Geoengineering Research last week in Washington D.C. Rose Cairns of the University of Sussex voiced her opposition to the practice. She said, “The very existence of significant research programs, whatever their impact on the physical environment, will fundamentally alter in unpredictable ways the social and political context in which climate governance of the future will be conducted.”

More plainly, Cairns said that she was concerned some countries may use geoengineering technology to set a “global temperature” that mets their needs and not the needs of other countries. She also questioned how the international community could ever decide on one “global temperature,” according to report from NPR.

Many of the researchers present expressed reluctance about the practice. Ted Halstead of the Climate Leadership Council said, “It’s with great reluctance that a lot of us are here.” But climate engineering must be discussed, he said, because “we live in a world where we’re heading towards 4 degrees of warming.”


Trump signs executive order dismantling Obama-era climate policies

total_emission_reductionsPlanned emission reductions per state by 2030 under the Clean Power Plan (EPA) Jake Slobe | March 29, 2017

President Trump has signed an executive order that will look to roll back many climate-change policies put in place by the Obama administration.

The order’s main target is former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which required states to slash carbon emissions from power plants – a key factor in the United States’ ability to meet its commitments under a climate change accord reached by nearly 200 countries in Paris in 2015.

Beyond rolling back Obama’s Clean Power Plan, the order takes aim at a several other significant Obama-era climate and environmental policies, including lifting a short-term ban on new coal mining on public lands. This means that older coal plants that had been marked for closing would probably stay open for a few years longer, extending the demand for coal.

The executive order is part of a much broader assault on Obama-era climate policies. Earlier this month, Trump announced the EPA would review and possibly weaken the Obama’s fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks in the post-2022 period. And the White House is crafting a budget proposal that requests sharp cuts to a variety of climate programs at the EPA, Department of Energy, NASA, NOAA, among others.

The executive order does not address the United States’ participation in the 2015 Paris Agreement, the landmark accord that committed nearly every country to take steps to reduce climate-altering pollution. But experts say that if the newly announced Trump program is enacted, it will all but ensure that the United States cannot meet its global warming commitments under the accord.

The aim of the Paris deal is to reduce emissions enough to stave off a warming of the planet by more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the level at which, experts say, the Earth will be irrevocably locked into a future of extreme droughts, flooding and shortages of food and water.

Legal experts say it could take years for the Trump administration to unwind the Clean Power Plan, which has not yet been carried out because it has been temporarily frozen by a Supreme Court order. Those regulations sought to cut planet-warming carbon dioxide pollution from coal-fired power plants. If enacted, they would have shut down hundreds of those plants, frozen construction of future plants and replaced them with wind and solar farms and other renewable energy sources. Many are worried that this executive order sends a signal to other countries that they might not have to meet their commitments, meaning world would fail to stay out of the climate danger zone.


Pages