Climate change denial is a turnoff to voters, poll finds

The United States capitol (Snapper CR29 / Flickr)
The United States Capitol (Snapper CR29 / Flickr)

Voters are overwhelmingly less likely to vote for a candidate who calls climate change a “hoax,” according to a recent poll.

The survey, conducted by The New York Times, Stanford University and research group Resources for the Future, gathered opinions from voters related to climate change and politics. It found that an overwhelming majority of voters believe global warming will pose serious problems for the country if nothing is done to curb it, and that Americans are more likely to vote for a candidate who takes climate change seriously. In addition, 78% of respondents, including 60% of self-identified Republicans, agreed that the federal government should act to limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by U.S. businesses.

Of note were the responses provided by Republicans, which indicate a shift away from outright climate science denial. While 48% of Republicans were more likely to vote for a candidate who said, “I believe that global warming has been happening for the past 100 years, mainly because we have been burning fossil fuels and putting out greenhouse gasses,” the same number, 48%, were less likely to vote for a candidate who said, “The science on global warming is a hoax and is an attempt to perpetrate a fraud on the American people.” However, politicians who use the “I’m not a scientist” line, an attempt at a non-answer, also scored favorably among Republicans, with 37% saying they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who used similar language regarding climate change.

This comes after a U.S. Senate resolution on climate science passed 98-1, stating that “climate change is real and not a hoax.” Challenges persist, however, in convincing Senate members that human activity causes climate change, with members split about evenly at 50-49. This led a panel of Iowa scientists to publish an editorial in The Des Moines Register further clarifying the general consensus among climate scientists: “We know humans, by adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, have altered the climate.”

See the full poll results here: Global Warming: What Should Be Done?

On the Radio: Dubuque receives presidential honor for climate action

Downtown Dubuque, Iowa (SD Dirk / Flickr)
Downtown Dubuque, Iowa (SD Dirk / Flickr)
February 2, 2015

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at the environmental work of Dubuque, which was recently named a Climate Action Champion by the White House. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: Dubuque recognized by White House.

A city in Iowa was recently recognized by the White House for its efforts to address climate change.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Dubuque was named a Climate Action Champion by the White House for efforts the city has made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, aiming to have emissions 50 percent below 2003 levels by 2030. The city is also being rewarded for its flood conscious infrastructure and flood mitigation efforts.

Dubuque – which sits along the Mississippi River – has been declared a presidential disaster zone six times in the past 16 years. Next fall the city will begin a 179-million-dollar flood mitigation project to protect some of Dubuque’s most developed and flood susceptible areas.

As a Climate Action Champion, Dubuque will be eligible for federal funding and other resources for applicable projects.

For the full list of Climate Action Champions, visit Iowa-Environmental-Focus-dot-org.

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

When it comes to climate change information, farmers trust scientists most

A combine sits in an Iowa field (Carl Wycoff / Flickr)
A combine sits in an Iowa field (Carl Wycoff / Flickr)
KC McGinnis | January 28, 2015

The best way to reach farmers and agricultural workers who are skeptical of human activity’s effect on climate change may be direct connections to climate scientists, according to one Iowa State University sociologist.

A 2012 survey conducted by ISU’s J. Gordon Arbuckle Jr. found that 66% of Midwest farmers believe climate change is occurring, yet the respondents were mixed on whether or not human activity played a role. More than half said climate change either occurs naturally or is equally affected by human and natural factors. Only about 10 percent agreed that “climate change is occurring and it is caused mostly by human activities.”

Some of that skepticism may come from a general distrust of the mainstream media; the MSM was listed as the least trusted source of environment-related information. Given farmers’ dependence on scientific advances in crop development, it’s not surprising that the most trusted source of environmental information was scientists themselves.

This has important implications for anyone discussing climate change with agricultural professionals. In an interview with ClimateWire, Arbuckle recommended using language of adaptation to unpredictable weather events over explicit mentions of greenhouse gas emissions. More than half of the respondents believe it’s necessary to be prepared for more frequent high precipitation events like heavy rainstorms, even though many remain uncertain that increased atmospheric moisture due to higher emissions is to blame.

That’s why the U.S. Department of Agriculture is taking steps to bring current research on changing weather trends and adaptive practices to farmers around the country. The USDA’s eight “climate hubs” focus on communicating strategies for reducing risk and reducing the costs related to variable weather by connecting researchers to farmers on the ground. One of these climate hubs is in Ames, Iowa.

$48 million donation aims to assist states with reducing emissions

Emissions billow from the smokestacks of a facility in Heilbronn, Germany (dmytrok/Flickr)
Emissions billow from the smokestacks of a facility in Heilbronn, Germany (dmytrok/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | January 23, 2015

Two charitable groups have donated $48 million so that in can be used in helping states reduce carbon emissions over the next three years.

The plans were announced earlier this week with half the money coming from Bloomberg Philanthropies and the other half from the Heising-Simons family, a California couple devoted to reducing the impact of climate change. This project will provide technical assistance, economic forecasting, and legal analysis to a dozen or so states pursuing clean-energy initiatives. The money will not go directly to the states – which are each responsible for developing their own emissions reduction plans – and will instead go to groups like Environmental Defense Fund and Natural Resources Defense Council which will advise states on strategies for cutting emissions.

“The science on climate change makes it abundantly clear that carbon pollution poses a deep threat to society, to agriculture, and to nature—and that early action is required to avoid these threats,” Mark Heising said in a press release. “New technologies ensure that the solutions to climate change can be cost-effective.  This initiative is designed to accelerate those solutions.”

The money is expected to be used to help create renewable energy systems which cause less pollution in the land, air, and water and therefore can improve public health. This donation coincides with President Obama’s Clean Power Plan which he announced in June of 2014 and which allows each state to set its own standards for reducing emissions from fossil fuels

Bakken pipeline seeks official approval

Pipes to form a pipeline in Williston, North Dakota (Lindsey G / Flickr)
Pipes to form a pipeline in Williston, North Dakota (Lindsey G / Flickr)
KC McGinnis | January 21, 2015

The Texas-based company seeking to build an oil pipeline spanning the state of Iowa has applied for approval from the Iowa Utilities Board, according to the Des Moines Register.

Dakota Access, LLC, a division of Texas company Energy Transfer Partners, is seeking permission to build an underground pipeline that would run from North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields to Patoka, Ill., where it would then be connected to distribution systems across the country. The application, filed Tuesday, has set the stage for an ongoing battle between oil companies and Iowa farmers and environmental experts.

Among the concerns over the project is the potential for disastrous spills, like one that leaked 50,000 gallons of crude oil into the Yellowstone River in Montana. Cities like Glendive, Mo., for which the Yellowstone is the primary water supply, have had to have fresh water hauled in on semi trailers since the accident.

In informational meetings held over the month of December, Iowa farmers spoke out against the pipeline, concerned that the project could not only cut yields but also interfere with drainage systems, as Iowans scramble to tackle the state’s growing agricultural runoff problem.

Not least among these concerns is the pipeline’s significance as a fossil fuel system at a time when Iowa is trying to transition to clean energy. The effects of climate change due to the burning of fossil fuels is expected to more heavily impact Iowa’s agriculture industry over the next few decades.

Oil companies working in the Brakken oil fields are trying to find solutions to the railroad congestion problems caused by the oil surge, leading to a backlog in exports like grains, which share the rails with oil.

On the Radio: Iowa ahead of new smog standards

The Des Moines skyline at dusk (Jason Mrachina / Flickr)
The Des Moines skyline at dusk (Jason Mrachina / Flickr)

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at early assessments of Iowa’s ozone emissions, which suggest that the state is one step ahead of upcoming new emission standards. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: Ozone standards

Iowa is one step ahead of new national ozone emission standards.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

In November, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a draft proposal to drastically reduce ozone emissions from power plants and other sources by 2025. All 99 of Iowa’s counties are set to meet the new standards, according to data collected by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

The EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee earlier this year recommended ozone levels be reduced to between 65 and 70 parts per billion, down from the current practice of 75 parts per billion.

Iowa already meets the EPA standards, with monitoring stations showing average ozone levels between 61 and 69 parts per billion. The Iowa DNR supplies data to the EPA’s Air Quality Index, which provides air quality conditions in real time.

For a link to the Air Quality Index, visit

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

Sea levels rising faster than previously expected

These signs indicate how the coast line is expected to move inward at Cottesloe Beach in Perth, Australia. (go_greener_oz/Flickr)
These signs indicate how the coast line is expected to move inward at Cottesloe Beach in Perth, Australia. (go_greener_oz/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | January 16, 2015

A new study by researchers at Harvard University and Rutgers University finds that the earth’s sea levels are currently rising at faster rate than in the past.

The study – published in this week’s edition of the journal Nature – found that between 1900 and 1990 projected sea level increases were overestimated by as much as 30 percent. The original estimates expected sea levels to rise between 1.5 and 1.8 millimeters per year during most of the 20th century while the actual figure was closer to 1.2 millimeters annually. Throughout the entire 20th century sea levels rose by about five inches, an inch less than the previous estimate of six inches. This increase in sea levels during the 20th century amounts to enough water to fill three billion Olympic-sized swimming pools.

The report also points out that previous estimates for sea levels rises after 1990 are now estimated to be higher than previously expected. Since 1990 sea levels have been rising by about 3 millimeters per year much of which can be attributed to the “quickening thaw of ice.”

Prior to the advent of satellite technology, sea levels were monitored using tide gauges which were “unevenly dotted around the coastlines of the world.” Researchers said that this old method did not include measurements from non-coastal parts of the ocean and that this led to the overestimated figures.