Midwest researchers come together for research project


Doug Schnoebelen, left, explains early 20th century mussel production along the Mississippi River during the CZO-IML conference on July 29, 2015. (Photo by Nick Fetty)
Doug Schnoebelen explains early 20th century mussel production along the Mississippi River during the CZO-IML conference on July 29, 2015. From left, Schnoebelen, Praveen Kumar, Thanos Papanicolaou, and Chris Wilson. (Photo by Nick Fetty)

Nick Fetty | July 30, 2015

Roughly 30 students, professors, and researchers from six different institutions met in Muscatine this week to discuss a collaborative research effort to improve land, water, and air quality in the Midwest.

This Midwestern project is part of a nation-wide project known as the Critical Zone Observatory (CZO) an effort by the National Science Foundation to “[study] the zone where rock meets life.” The Midwestern project is called the CZO-IML (Intensely Managed Landscapes) and focuses on watersheds and lands in Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota.

The Lucille A. Carver Mississippi Riverside Environmental Research Station (LACMRERS) in Muscatine hosted the IML-CZO conference which began Tuesday and ends today. This marked the second annual meeting for what will be a five year project.

“The first year was a lot of planning and field campaigns. The second year we’ve collected some data will be able to get that back to look at the results. We finally have some things to discuss, some real science,” said LACMRERS Director Doug Schnoebelen.

Schnoebelen, who also serves as a contributor for the IML-CZO project as well as a member of CGRER, said he hopes this research will be helpful not just for farmers and watershed managers but also for the general public.

“We’re hoping to look at an integrated approach and that’s what the Critical Zone is, being able to say something about water movement, soil conservation, transformation of carbon and energy in the environment. All of these things are really critical to the soil, the water, and the way we live.”

The conference brought together researchers from Indiana University, Northwestern University, Purdue University, University of Illinois, University of Iowa, and University of Tennessee. Schnoebelen said this emphasis on collaboration over competition has been key to the success of the project. He added that he is also grateful the CZO chose to support a Midwestern research project since much of the CZO’s other research takes place on the coasts.

“I think it was important when the national team came out and they realized how managed our landscape was and how important this research really was. It’s not just flyover country in the Midwest, it’s a critical part of our economy for food and energy.”

MidAmerican Energy parent to invest $15 billion in renewables


(Don Graham / Flickr)
(Don Graham / Flickr)
KC McGinnis | July 28, 2015

The parent company for MidAmerican Energy has pledged to invest $15 billion in renewable energy construction and operation, in addition to another $15 billion already invested through 2014.

Berkshire Hathaway Energy, which acquired MidAmerican in 2000, recently joined twelve other behemoth U.S. companies including Coca-Cola, Microsoft and Walmart in the White House’s American Business Act on Climate Pledge, a partnership that aims to help the Obama administration reach its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide by 26-28% by 2025. The pledged investments would help Berkshire Hathaway expand its wind portfolio to 57% of its total retail energy load by 2017.

The company would also expand its investments in solar energy and, perhaps most importantly for Iowans, make infrastructure improvements that would help better integrate renewables into the existing power grid. Elsewhere in the country, Berkshire Hathaway plans to retire 75% of its energy produced from coal in Nevada by 75%.

Several of the companies that signed the pledge Monday have a significant Iowa presence, including Cargill and Google. Google boasts a 35% renewable energy rate for all of its operations, but hopes to reach 100% renewables. Cargill claims 16% energy efficiency gains since 2005, and aims to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from beef production.

Iowa Climate Statement 2015 getting national media attention


Dr. Yogi Shah, of Des Moines University, speaks during the presentation of Iowa Climate Statement 2015 at the statehouse on May 11, 2015. (KC McGinnis)
Dr. Yogi Shah, of Des Moines University, speaks during the presentation of Iowa Climate Statement 2015 at the statehouse on May 11, 2015. (KC McGinnis/CGRER)

Nick Fetty | July 22, 2015

Iowa Climate Statement 2015: Time for Action was released more than two months ago but the news is still getting noticed by national media outlets.

On Monday, Yale Climate Connections ran a radio piece about the statement which urges Iowa voters to ask presidential hopefuls to address climate-related issues while on the campaign trial. The piece interviewed Drake University environmental science and policy professor David Courard-Hauri who was also one of the statement’s lead authors.

Iowa Climate Statement 2015 was signed by 188 scientists and researchers from 39 colleges and universities in the state. This marked the 5th installment of the series which started in 2011 with just 30 signers. With the 2016 presidential election just around the corner, the 2015 statement encourages Iowa voters to ask presidential candidates about climate policies they support during campaign stops in the Hawkeye State.

Aside from coverage on Iowa Environmental Focus, the statement has also been noticed by local outlets such as the Cedar Rapids Gazette, WHO-TV, Iowa Public Radio, and Radio Iowa as well as national outlets like ThinkProgress and Al Jazeera America.

The statement has also gotten much attention on social media, particularly Twitter.

The authors of the 2015 statement hope to use Iowa’s role as the first in the nation caucus to bring attention to climate issues for both republican and democratic candidates. Iowa’s caucus takes place on February 1, 2016.

On the Radio: Iowans look to energy policy when choosing presidential candidates


(Daniel Morrison / Flickr)
(Daniel Morrison / Flickr)

July 20, 2015

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at a recent poll that shows Iowans consider energy policies when choosing presidential candidates. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: Iowa Poll on Energy Policy

Iowa voters consider energy production to be a major factor when selecting candidates for the upcoming presidential election.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

An April poll by the Consumer Energy Alliance found that 82 percent of registered Iowa voters said that they consider the energy policies of presidential hopefuls to be a major factor when selecting a candidate. The poll also found that 52 percent of Iowans support offshore drilling for oil in U.S. waters near Alaska, while 32 percent opposed it. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management finds that there are approximately 27 billion barrels of oil and 132 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Alaska outer continental shelf.

Proponents of offshore drilling say that it will create jobs and lead to energy independence, while opponents cite environmental concerns with the drilling as well as with the drilling of fossil fuels.

For more information about the poll, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

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

On the Radio: Climate statement addresses public health


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Des Moines University Professor Yogi Shah addresses media during the release of the Iowa Climate Statement 2015.

 

June 29, 2015

This week’s On the Radio segment looks ways the Iowa Climate Statement 2015 highlighted public health issues related to climate change. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: Climate Statement and Public Health

SCIENTISTS AND RESEARCHERS IN IOWA HOPE TO USE THE STATE’S ROLE AS THE FIRST IN THE NATION CAUCUS TO BRING PUBLIC HEALTH AND CLIMATE CHANGE INTO THE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE.

THIS IS THE IOWA ENVIRONMENTAL FOCUS.

THE FIFTH ANNUAL STATEMENT ENCOURAGES IOWANS TO ASK PRESIDENTAL HOPEFULS HOW THEY PLAN TO ADDRESS CLIMATE CHANGE WHILE ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL IN IOWA. DES MOINES UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR YOGI SHAH CITED SEVERAL PUBLIC HEALTH CONCERNS AFFECTING IOWANS INCLUDING INCREASED FLOODING, INCREASED RATES OF INSECT-BORNE DISEASES, AS WELL AS INCREASED ALLERGEN RATES AND A LONGER ALLERGEN SEASON.

YOGI SHAH: “Because of increased CO2 in the air, the ragweeds, the poisons, the proteins are stronger and causing more allergies. So that way we are seeing longer seasons. In Iowa itself, shown by national studies, we have 19 extra days of allergies which we didn’t see a few years ago.”

188 SCIENTISTS FROM 39 COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES SIGNED ‘IOWA CLIMATE STATEMENT 2015: TIME FOR ACTION.’

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE STATEMENT, VISIT IOWAENVIRONMENTALFOCUS.ORG

FROM THE UI CENTER FOR GLOBAL AND REGIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH, I’M JERRY SCHNOOR.

On the Radio: Iowa scientists urge politicians to address climate change


Drake University professor of environment science and policy David Courard-Hauri addresses the press during the release of the Iowa Climate Statement 2015 - Time for Action on Tuesday, May 12, 2015. (KC McGinnis/CGRER)
Drake University professor of environment science and policy David Courard-Hauri addresses the press during the release of the Iowa Climate Statement 2015 – Time for Action on Tuesday, May 12, 2015. (KC McGinnis/CGRER)
June 22, 2015

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at the “Iowa Climate Statement 2015 – Time for Action,” which calls Iowa voters to ask politicians and presidential candidates key questions on climate change. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: Iowa Climate Statement 2015 – Politics

IOWA SCIENCETISTS AND RESEARCHERS HOPE TO USE IOWA’S ROLE AS THE FIRST IN THE NATION CAUCUS TO BRING ATTENTION TO CLIMATE ISSUES DURING THE 2016 PRESIDENTAL ELECTION.

THIS IS THE IOWA ENVIRONMENTAL FOCUS.

“IOWA CLIMATE STATEMENT 2015 – TIME FOR ACTION” WAS UNVEILED DURING A PRESS CONFERENCE AT THE STATEHOUSE IN MAY. THE FIFTH ANNUAL STATEMENT WAS SIGNED BY 188 SCIENTISTS AND RESEARCHERS FROM 39 COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES. DAVID COURARD-HAURI – ONE OF THE STATEMENT’S LEAD AUTHORS – SAID ISSSUES REGARDING CLMIATE CHANGE HAVE BEEN IGNORED BY POLITICIANS FROM BOTH PARITIES:

“This is unacceptable and we’re calling on voters in the state and members of the press who are interviewing candidates or asking questions in debates to make sure that anyone who wants to be president has the opportunity to spell out clearly for voters how they will deal with the most critical of issues.”

THE AUTHORS OUTLINED SEVERAL ISSUES FOR PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES TO ADDRESS INCLUDING REGULATIONS ON CARBON EMISSIONS FROM POWER PLANTS, ENERGY CONSERVATION, AND THE FUTURE OF THE PRODUCTION TAX CREDIT FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY PROJECTS.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT IOWA CLIMATE STATEMENT 2015, VISIT IOWAENVIRONMENTALFOCUS.ORG.

FROM THE UI CENTER FOR GLOBAL AND REGIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH, I M JERRY SCHNOOR.

Study: Fewer greenhouse emissions for states with more environmental activism


Thomas Dietz is a professor of Sociology and Environmental Science and Policy (ESPP) and assistant vice president for environmental research at Michigan State University. Dietz teamed up with MSU Foundation professor of sociometrics Kenneth Frank on the study. (Photo by Kurt Stepnitz)

Nick Fetty | June 19, 2015

A new study shows that states with the highest rates of environmentalism saw lower rates of greenhouse gas emissions.

The researchers from Michigan State University examined greenhouse gas emissions from all 50 states dating back to 1990 and analyzed how emissions correlated with population, gross state product per capita, employment rate and environmentalism. Environmentalism was calculated using “the environmental voting record of a state’s congressional delegation, as rated by the League of Conservation Voters.” The report concludes that a one percent increase in environmentalism can reduce emissions by more than enough to compensate for the typical annual increase in emissions.

“We’ve used new methods developed over the years and new innovations Ken has developed to add in the politics – and find that politics and environmentalism can mediate some environmental impact,” study co-author Thomas Dietz said in a statement. “Environmentalism seems to influence policies and how well policies that are in place are actually implemented, and it also influences individual behavior and the choices people make.”

Vermont had the greenest voting record and ranked 2nd nationally (behind for Rhode Island) for fewest emissions while states line Texas, Wyoming, and Louisiana had the least green voting records highest rates of emissions.

The study – “Political influences on greenhouse gas emissions from US states” – was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Support for this research was provided by MSU’s AgBioResearch.