Climate change evangelist Katherine Hayhoe to lecture at ISU for Earth Day

Katherine Hayhoe will discuss ways that Iowa farmers and businesses can combat climate change during a lecture at Iowa State University on April 22. (Ashely Rodgers/Texas Tech University)

Nick Fetty | April 21, 2015

Atmospheric scientist and a climate change evangelist Katherine Hayhoe will present “Climate Urgency & How Iowa Farmers and Businesses Can Take the Lead” at Iowa State University as part of an Earth Day commemoration on April 22.

Hayhoe is an an Associate Professor in the Public Administration program at Texas Tech University and also directs the school’s Climate Science Center. She serves as the science adviser for Showtime’s Emmy award-winning documentary series “The Years of Living Dangerously” and has also been featured on the PBS’s “The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers.”

In 2014, Time magazine named Hayhoe one of The 100 Most Influential People particularly because of her work as a climate change evangelist which allows her to combine her Christian faith with her passion for educating the world about climate change.

“There’s something fascinating about a smart person who defies stereotype. That’s what makes my friend Katharine Hayhoe — a Texas Tech climatologist and an evangelical Christian — so interesting,” wrote actor Don Cheadle for a profile in Time. “It’s hard to be a good steward of the planet if you don’t accept the hard science behind what’s harming it, and it can be just as hard to take action to protect our world if you don’t love it as the rare gift it is.”

The event is schedule to begin at 7 p.m. and will take place in Great Hall at the Memorial Union. The lecture will also be live streamed online.

Cosponsors for this event include: the Climate Science Program, the Environmental Law and Policy Center, the Iowa Environmental Council, the Iowa Interfaith Power & Light, NSF EPSCoR, and the Committee on Lectures (funded by GSB).

On the Radio: Iowans favor water works suit

The Des Moines skyline (Scott Grissom / Flickr)
The Des Moines skyline (Scott Grissom / Flickr)
April 20, 2015

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at favorable public opinion of the currently underway Des Moines Water Works lawsuit. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: Water Works Suit

A strong majority of Iowans favor the current Des Moines Water Works lawsuit aimed at  counties with high nutrient runoff, according to a recent survey.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

A Des Moines Register poll conducted in February found that 63 percent of Iowans believe the Des Moines water utility is right to pursue a lawsuit against three northwest Iowa drainage districts. The Water Works has recorded nitrate levels six times higher than the federal limit for drinking water in parts of the Raccoon River that are fed by drainages in Sac, Buena Vista and Calhoun counties. These high nitrate levels create headaches for the utility, which is required to activate a facility to remove the nutrients at a cost of about 4,000 dollars per day.

The lawsuit intends to bring farmers in the northwest Iowa counties under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. Farmers are currently applying Iowa’s voluntary Nutrient Reduction Strategy as an attempt to reduce nutrient runoff.

For continued updates on the Water Works lawsuit, visit

From the UI Center for Global & Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerry Schnoor.

Report: Iowa added 2,000+ wind energy jobs in 2014

Wind turbines near Williams, Iowa. (Magnus Manske/Wikimedia Commons)


Nick Fetty | April 14, 2015

Iowa added more than 2,000 jobs in the wind energy sector between 2013 and 2014, according to a report by the American Wind Energy Association.

The seventh annual AWEA U.S Wind Industry Annual Market Report – which was released on Wednesday – reported that approximately 6,000 people worked in Iowa’s wind energy industry in 2013 which ranks second in the nation behind Texas with 16,000. The Hawkeye State also added 511 megawatts of wind energy capacity in 2014 which accounted for 11 percent of wind energy capacity nationwide. Iowa ranked behind Texas and Oklahoma nationally for wind energy capacity.

Iowa leads the nation in percentage of electricity generated by wind energy at 28.5 percent and ranked second (behind Texas…again) for wind energy produced at 16.3 million megawatt hours, enough energy to power approximately 1.49 million homes. More than $10 billion has been invested in Iowa for wind energy projects and infrastructure.

Nationwide the wind industry added 23,000 jobs in 2014, bringing the grand total to 73,000. Additionally, the nation quadrupled its wind generating capacity between 2013 and 2014. Tom Kiernan – CEO for AWEA – attributed the nationwide increase in wind energy to effective policies in place.

“These results show that extending the Production Tax Credit for wind power in 2013 was good for business in America,” Kiernan said in a press release. “We’ve got a mainstream, Made-in-the-USA product that supports jobs in every state and is gaining momentum. With a more predictable policy we can add more jobs and keep this American success story going.”

A March report by the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that wind energy in the U.S. will double in the next five years.

UNI event focuses on ethics of energy production

The Campanile is a major landmark on the University of Northern Iowa campus. (Madmaxmarchh/WikiMedia Commons)

Nick Fetty | April 17, 2015

An event hosted by the University of Northern Iowa on Wednesday focused on ethical implications in the production of energy.

The event – “Ethics of Energy Production” – examined “economic effects, environmental impacts, legal aspects, agricultural viewpoints and employment prospects” in regard to how energy is produced in Iowa and abroad. Speakers addressed a handful of issues including: Concerns about how Iowa and the U.S. will meet future energy needs, the proposed Dakota Access oil pipeline and Rock Island Clean Line projects, the approval process for proposed energy production projects, and how to have your voice heard in the discussion.

Attorney Justin LaVan discussed concerns Iowans have about the proposed Rock Island Clean Line which would pass through 16 counties in the state. According to the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, LaVan – who represents an alliance of landowners opposed to the proposed pipeline – pointed out that the project has received easement approval from 176 landowners. The project needs approval from 1,540 total landowners in order to pass. A February poll by the Des Moines Register found that the majority of Iowans support the pipeline but are against using eminent domain to accomplish the project.

David Osterberg – a clinical professor in Occupational and Environmental Health at the University of Iowa – served as a panelist at the event and discussed the impact that energy production has on climate change.

“[T]his particular industry is the bane of our existence in Iowa, because it hurt everything else, not only wind but also ethanol. They’re bad guys. Don’t give them a pipeline,” Osterberg said.

UNI business professor Craig Van Sandt was an organizer of the event and he focused on the impact that current energy production practices will have on future generations.

“They are going to affect our children, our grandchildren — and depending on your leanings — they affect animals in the environment as well,” he said.

Event: Johnson County Climate Forum

UI engineering professor and CGRER co-director Dr. Jerry Schnoor will deliver a keynote speech at the Johnson County Climate forum on April 18. (Michael Gallagher/Iowa Environmental Focus)

Nick Fetty | April 14, 2015

The Iowa United Nations Association (UNA) is hosting its inaugural forum to address climate change on an international scale.

The first of the eight-part community forum series will kick off in Iowa City on Saturday April 18. The event will take place at the University Athletic Club (1360 Melrose Ave, Iowa City) and is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. Cost of attendance is $10 which includes lunch. Those interested in attending must register before the event.

The event will include keynote speeches from UI engineering professor and CGRER co-director Jerry Schnoor as well as CGRER member Peter Thorne who also serves as a professor in the College of Public Health. There will also be panel discussions of student activism on climate change, the impact of climate change worldwide, and opportunities for citizen action. This series will serve as a preface for the UN’s conference to curb global greenhouse gas emissions scheduled to take place in Paris this December.

For more information about Saturday’s event, email Iowa UNA Exectuve Director Matthew Wolf: matthew[AT]

Monetary sponsors for this event include: UI Office of Sustainability, National Education Association Peace and Justice Iowa Caucus, Hills Bank and Trust Company, Rotary Club of Iowa City – Noon, John Fraser, Dorothy Paul. Other partners include: Johnson County UNA, UI Environmental Health Sciences Research Center, UI Center for Human Rights, UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility, Sierra Club, ECO IC.

On the Radio: Smoke linked to tornado intensity, UI study finds

Damage to the roof of St. Patrick Catholic Church in Iowa City from a 2006 tornado. (Laura Crossett / Flickr)
Damage to the roof of St. Patrick Catholic Church in Iowa City from a 2006 tornado. (Laura Crossett / Flickr)
April 13, 2015

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at a recent study by University of Iowa researchers who found a link between smoke from fires and tornado intensity. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

**Please feel free to download the audio file for this On the Radio segment and distribute to friends, colleagues or media. To download the mp3 file, right click this link and choose “Save Link As…”

Transcript: Tornadoes

A recent University of Iowa study has found that smoke from fires can contribute to the intensity of tornadoes.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The study was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters earlier this year. The researchers examined how smoke affected a system of severe weather events which occurred on April 27, 2011. This system produced 122 tornadoes and caused 313 deaths across the southeastern United States. The study found that smoke particles in the atmosphere lowered the base of the clouds and affected the speed of the winds which increased the intensity of the tornadoes. The research was conducted using computer simulations.

CGRER co-director Greg Carmichael and CGRER postdoctoral fellow Pablo Saide were co-authors of the study, along with researchers from other University of Iowa departments, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and NASA.

For more information about tornadoes and for a link to the study visit

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerry Schnoor.

Event: Iowa Climate Festival 2015

(American Chemical Society)

Nick Fetty | April 10, 2015

This 2015 Iowa Climate Festival will take place on the University of Iowa campus Saturday.

The event will kickoff with a two-part symposium in the morning. The first part will focus on the climate effects of greenhouse gases and particles in the air. Featured speakers include Betsy Stone (UI Department of Chemistry), Vicki Grassian (UI Department of Chemistry), and Scott Spak (UI Public Policy Center). The second part will focus on the effects that climate change has on public health and Iowa’s agriculture. Speakers include Gene Takle (Iowa State University, Atmospheric Science), Peter Thorne (UI Public Health), and Wanda Reiter-Kintz (State Hygienic Laboratory). Attendees will have an opportunity to ask questions at the end of each session.

The Climate Science Fair is scheduled for the afternoon. Attendees can partake in hands-on experiments to learn about the composition of greenhouse gases, how clouds are formed, how particles in the air cool the earth, why oceans are becoming more acidic, how albedo affects climate change, and more.

Coinciding with the event will be the Iowa City Recycling Logo Competition. The City of Iowa City is accepting entries from local students and the winning design will used on the side of Iowa City recycling trucks. All entires must be displayed at the museum and juding will end at 3 p.m.

This event is free and open to the public. For more information and for a full schedule of events visit the American Chemical Society’s website.

Sponsors for this year’s event include: the Iowa section of the American Chemical Society, University of Iowa Department of Chemistry, Museum of Natural History, Office of Sustainability, State Hygienic Laboratory, National Science Foundation, Center for Aerosol Impacts on Climate and the Environment (CAICE), Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research (CGRER), and the City of Iowa City.