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Iowa Scientists Release 2014 Climate Statement

Iowans are experiencing real impacts from climate change, including heavier rains and increased flooding.  Human health effects from climate change are just as real and are already being felt in Iowa, according to a statement by statewide group of 180 Iowa scientists.

“Climate change is negatively impacting our water quality, increasing exposures to allergens and air pollutants, introducing new infectious diseases, and imposing increased stress on Iowa families,” said Peter Thorne, Professor and Head of the Department of Occupational & Environmental Health, College of Public Health, University of Iowa.

The fourth annual statement, “Iowa Climate Statement 2014: Impacts on the Health of Iowans,” released October 10, 2014, was signed by 180 science faculty and researchers from 38 Iowa colleges and universities.

The scientists say the health‐related effects of extreme weather events are the most obvious, immediate, and direct.  These events are increasing in frequency and severity as our atmosphere warms and holds more moisture.

“Repeated heavy rains increase human exposure to toxic chemicals and raw sewage that are spread by flood waters,” said David Osterberg, Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, University of Iowa.

Degraded water quality is also directly associated with climate change.  “In farm states like Iowa, higher water temperatures combine with high nutrient levels to create large harmful algal blooms which make water unsuitable for human and animal consumption and for recreation,” stated Osterberg.

“The strong support for the statement reflects the consensus among Iowa science faculty and research staff that action is needed now to lower emissions and find new ways to adapt to climate changes in order to reduce the risks of new health problems,” stated Dave Courard‐Hauri, Associate Professor, Environmental Science and Policy Program, Drake University.

Climate change is also making it more difficult for many Iowans to breathe.  Plants produce more pollen, pollen that is increasingly potent in response to warmer temperatures and higher carbon dioxide levels in the air.

“The number of Iowans with respiratory problems such as childhood asthma has increased dramatically since the 1980s. In many cases, this is linked to increased exposures to flood molds and to higher indoor moisture, as well as to lung‐damaging ozone and fine particulate matter from burning fossil fuels,” said Thorne.

“New infectious diseases are becoming more common in the Midwest as the organisms that carry them move north due to rising temperatures. Disease carrying mosquitos and ticks are living longer and expanding their range due to increasing temperatures, more rainfall, and longer summers,” said Yogesh Shah, Associate Dean, Department of Global Health, Des Moines University.

“Our changing climate’s influence on mental health is less obvious, but it is well established that thousands of Iowans have been impacted by stress from the loss of homes and income due to climate‐ related flooding and drought,” Mary Mincer Hansen, Adjunct Professor, College of Health Sciences MPH Program, Des Moines University.

“As long as greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase, climate‐related health problems will continue to grow,” said Neil Bernstein, Chair, Department of Natural and Applied Sciences, Mount Mercy University. The scientists agree that adopting strong climate‐change policies will play a vital role in diminishing human suffering and illness now and for generations to come.

“It is clear that expanding energy efficiency and clean renewable energy efforts will have the co‐benefits of reducing air pollution and the creation of additional jobs and economic opportunities for Iowans,” stated Bernstein.

Iowa Climate Statement 2014: Impacts on the Health of Iowans

Iowa Climate Statement 2013: A Rising Challenge to Iowa Agriculture

Iowa Climate Statement 2012: The Drought of 2012

For more information on climate change in Iowa visit:

Assessment of Potential Impacts of Climate Changes on Iowa Using Current Trends and Future Projections - Eugene S. Takle Director, Climate Science Program 

Iowa Department of Natural Resources climate change links

Climate Change Impacts on Iowa 2010

Climate Change Advisory Council Final Report – December 2008

 

EPA Public Listening Sessions on Greenhouse Gas

EPA is holding public listening sessions across the country to solicit ideas and input from the public and stakeholders about the best Clean Air Act approaches to reducing carbon pollution from existing power plants.

The feedback from these sessions will play an important role in helping EPA develop smart, cost-effective guidelines that reflect the latest and best information available. The agency will seek additional public input during the notice and comment period once it issues a proposal by June 2014.

Click here to see the remaining time and locations.

EPA is accepting input through the Contact Us page or at carbonpollutioninput@epa.gov.

Sierra Club members from EPA’s Region VII states in Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri gave their comments at the session held in Lenexa, Kansas, on November 4.  Click here to see photos of that event.

 

April 2013: Global Temps 13th Highest on Record

Year-to-date eighth warmest period on record; North American snow cover extent third largest on record

The globally-averaged temperature for April 2013 was the 13th warmest April since record keeping began in 1880. April 2013 also marks the 37th consecutive April and 338th consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th century average.

Many areas of the world experienced higher-than-average monthly temperatures, including southern Europe, central Asia, the Russian Far East, southwestern Australia, southern Argentina, and western Greenland. Meanwhile, most of North America, northern and western Europe, northeastern Asia, central South America, and much of equatorial Africa were notably below average.

 

 

Iowa Scientists Call for State Action on Climate Change

Scientists from across Iowa are calling on state officials to develop policy and take action to address the causes and effects of climate change in Iowa.

In a statement distributed to all Iowa legislators on February 21, 2012, 44 scientists from 28 colleges and universities in Iowa warn that “changes in rainfall patterns and other climate indicators have emerged as the latest and potentially the most serious challenge to Iowans' lives and livelihoods.” They call for state and local officials to “acknowledge the overwhelming balance of evidence for the underpinning causes of climate change, to develop appropriate policy responses, and to develop local and statewide strategies to adapt to near-term changes in climate.”  Read the statement.

The statement was drafted by four researchers from the Climate Science Program at Iowa State University, including Prof. Gene Takle, director of the program, who spoke about climate impacts in Iowa to an environmental protection caucus meeting today at the State Capitol, along with Prof. Jerald Schnoor, co-director of the Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research at the University of Iowa.

“Iowans need to know that scientists who live and work in communities across our state understand that climate change is real and is already affecting Iowans and Iowa’s economy,” said David Courard-Hauri, professor of environmental science and policy at Drake University who coordinated the signatures onto the statement. “There are things that policy makers in Iowa can and should do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for climatic changes that can no longer be avoided.”  

65% of Americans support a revenue-neutral carbon tax (Yale/GMU)

Despite persistent concerns about the economy, Americans support a broad range of policies to address climate disruption and expand the nation’s clean energy economy. A Yale University and George Mason University survey finds that 70% of American adults say that “global warming” should be a priority for the President and Congress – including 44% of Republicans, 72% of independents, and 85% of Democrats. Looking ahead to 2012, 52% say that a presidential candidate’s views on “global warming” will be “one of several important issues” in determining their vote. Just 2% say that climate views will be the “single most important issue” in their decision. 66% say that the United States should make a "large-scale effort" (26%) or "medium-scale effort" (40%) to reduce global warming, even if it has large or moderate economic costs. 73% of Americans support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant, and 66% support signing an international treaty to cut emissions.

On a bipartisan basis, Americans support the concept of a revenue-neutral carbon tax that includes individual tax breaks. 65% would support "a shift in taxes that reduces the federal income tax that Americans pay each year, but increases taxes on coal, oil, and natural gas by an equal amount." Respondents were told that "this shift would be 'revenue neutral' (meaning the total amount of taxes collected by the government would stay the same), but would help create jobs and decrease pollution."

Whether or not Americans would support a $10/ton tax on fuels that "produce carbon dioxide (coal, oil, natural gas)" depends on what is done with the revenue. Researchers presented respondents with different carbon tax structures, each of which would slightly increase commodity prices. The most popular strategy is to reduce federal income taxes: If revenues are used to reduce federal income taxes, 60% support the carbon tax. If revenues are returned to Americans via an annual check, support drops to 49%. If revenues are used to reduce the national debt, just 44% support the tax. Without explanation of how revenue would be used, just 37% support the carbon tax.

Americans overwhelmingly (90%) believe that developing clean energy sources should be a priority for President Obama and Congress. Despite continued concern about the economy, 78% of Americans support funding renewable energy research, 78% support tax rebates for efficient cars and solar, and 63% support requiring utilities to produce at least 20% of their electricity from renewable sources (even if it costs the average household an extra $100 per year). On the other hand, 69% oppose federal subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, and 54% oppose ethanol subsidies. However, many Americans believe the expansion of offshore drilling is an effective strategy to address our energy needs (63% support expansion), but just 42% support building more nuclear plants.

Finally, this survey found that Americans don’t believe the environment and economy are at odds with one another. 54% of Americans say that protecting the environment "improves economic growth and provides new jobs," 31% say it has no effect, and just 15% believe it "reduces economic growth and costs jobs."

Knowledge Networks interviewed 1,000 adults nationwide from Oct. 20 - Nov. 16; MoE ±3.0% points at 95% CI

 

Protecting Americans from Global Warming Pollution
New EPA safeguards to limit global warming pollution will begin moving forward January 2 as planned now that legislative moves to stop the safeguards have been placed on hold. The decision by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) to shelve the legislation follows a ruling by a federal appeals court which overturned industry arguments and cleared the way for EPA to protect Americans by taking action on climate change pollution.

Climate Disruption: Is Extreme Weather the New Normal?

In November 2011, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a special report examining the link between extreme weather events and global climate change. The report – a culmination of a 2-year process involving 100 scientists and climate policy experts – concludes that climate change is indeed responsible for the rise in number of extreme weather events. IPPC says it is “likely” (a 66% to 100% probability) that the increased frequency of extreme weather events is a result of greenhouse gas emissions from human activity – including coal-fired power plants, fuels burned for transportation, and deforestation. Researchers note that “economic losses from weather- and climate-related disasters are increasing,” and they warn that more extreme weather events are coming our way this century. This year, Americans have endured a record-number of extreme weather events, such as intense summer heat waves, severe droughts in Texas and Oklahoma, and flooding in Mississippi. According to the National Climatic Data Center, extreme weather events in 2011 have already cost the United States over $50 billion in economic damages.

In response to the IPCC report, the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication released new data showing that a majority of Americans believe “global warming” made recent extreme weather events worse. Interestingly, people are most likely to believe that global warming intensified heat waves and droughts. They are less inclined to say that extreme snowfalls or hurricanes were made worse by global warming. I attribute this pattern to Yale’s use of “global warming” instead of “climate change” or (our favorite) “climate disruption.” The term “warming” inherently highlights rising global temperatures and ignores other climate changes (i.e. cold temperatures and more or less precipitation).

On behalf of Yale/GMU, Knowledge Networks interviewed 1,000 adults nationwide from Oct. 20 - Nov. 16; MoE ±3.0% points at 95% CI

This report re-confirms that climate disruption is already happening, and that human activity is playing a role. Scientific evidence is mounting, yet many in Congress continue to deny that climate disruption is happening at all. Talking about the connection between climate and extreme weather can be a pathway to greater public concern and support for climate policies. The scientific evidence is consistent with what people intuitively understand: the changing climate is impacting the weather in our backyards and taking a toll on our pocketbooks. We must demand that our leaders combat climate disruption by moving America beyond dirty fossil fuels and towards a clean energy economy. We simply can’t afford to ignore climate disruption any longer.

 

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Last updated 10.10.14

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Global Warming's Terrifying New Math

by Bill McKibben, Rolling Stone, July 19, 2012

Three simple numbers that add up to global catastrophe - and that make clear who the real enemy is 

Climate Change is Affecting Iowa's Natural Resources

Storms Threaten Ozone Layer Over U.S., Study Says  

by Henry Fountain, The New York Times, July 26, 2012

Strong summer thunderstorms that pump water high into the upper atmosphere pose a threat to the protective ozone layer over the United States, researchers said on Thursday, drawing one of the first links between climate change and ozone loss over populated areas.

 

The Top Five Things You Need To Know About EPA’s New Carbon Pollution Rule

by David Roberts, ThinkProgress Climate Progress, March 27, 2012

After long anticipation and many delays, EPA is expected to issue its first limits on carbon pollution from power plants this week.

With Republicans increasingly desperate in the face of economic recovery, they are sure to treat this as a lifeline, a focus for renewed attacks. They will try to make the rule a stand-in for government overreach, job-killing regulations, and Obama’s secret plan to raise gas prices. Also probably Sharia.

Read the entire article.

 

Heartland faces a mutiny amid furor over billboard campaign

by Evan Lehmann, E&E Publishing, May 7, 2012

The Heartland Institute's failed billboard campaign attacking the existence of climate change is driving a surge of corporate donors to abandon the group and prompting a mutiny among its Washington-based staff, which is decamping for less volatile surroundings, according to sources. Read more.

 

The Secret, Corporate-Funded Plan To Teach Children That Climate Change Is A Hoax

by Brad Johnson, ThinkProgress Green, February 14, 2012

Internal documents reveal that the Heartland Institute, a right-wing think tank funded by the Koch brothers, Microsoft, and other top corporations, is planning to develop a “global warming curriculum” for elementary schoolchildren that presents climate science as “a major scientific controversy.”

Climate Regulations a Job Killer? Quit Crying Wolf

by Donald Cohen for YES! Magazine 

July 11, 2011

Over and over, the regulations that the Chamber of Commerce says will be catastrophic have become the basic safeguards we take for granted.

There’s an old adage that if you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it. That seems to be the unofficial motto of the United States Chamber of Commerce, which has spent the last forty years repeating (and repeating and repeating) the mantra that government regulations on businesses “kill jobs” and economic growth. But their predictions have been repeatedly wrong. The laws they warned would bring economic ruin have become the basic health, safety, and environmental safeguards we now take for granted.

Read the entire article.

 

NASA Gives Kids Their Own Guide to Climate Change

NASA has developed a new Climate Kids website targeting grades 4-6, the site answers questions about global climate change using simple illustrations, humor, interactivity and age-appropriate language.  The site also includes cartoon characters, Earth science-related games and profiles of people working toward slowing down climate change.  Check out the website here.


See NASA's "Vital Signs of the Planet"

 

Climate-Change Science and Policy: What Do We Know? What Should We Do

John P. Holdren, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, delivered a keynote address at the Kavli Prize Science Forum in Oslo, Norway, in September 2010.  See his presentation here.