EU officials set plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions


CO2 and other greenhouse gases billow from a smokestack at a factory in China (Climate and Ecosystems Change Adaptation Research University Network/Flickr)
CO2 and other greenhouse gases billow from a smokestack at a factory in China (Climate and Ecosystems Change Adaptation Research University Network/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | October 24, 2014

Officials with the European Union reached a deal early Friday to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the 28-country pact by at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

Additionally, the EU agreed to 27 percent targets for “renewable energy supply and efficiency gains” though some leaders questioned the cost effectiveness of this strategy. This builds upon the EU’s goals for 2020 which aimed for a 20 percent boost in renewables such as solar and wind as well as a 20 percent increase in energy efficiency.

These agreements come on the heels of an international environmental summit which will take place in Paris in November and December of 2015. The 28 countries that comprise the EU account for approximately 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. China produces the greatest amount of greenhouse gases of any single country at 23 percent while the United States accounts for 19 percent. Non-EU member countries such as China and the United States are expected to use these newly set EU goals as a measuring stick when drafting its own plans for reducing carbon emissions.

Earlier this year the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed nationwide goals for reducing greenhouse gases and utilizing more renewable energy in the U.S. by 2030, allowing each state to set and achieve its own goals. Iowa – which ranks second in the country for the amount of wind energy produced – is well on its way to meeting these goals.

Iowa and Iowa State celebrate Campus Sustainability Day


The University of Iowa ranked second - behind Purdue - in the 2014 RecycleMania Big Ten rankings (Wikimedia)
The University of Iowa ranked second – behind Purdue – in the 2014 RecycleMania Big Ten rankings (Wikimedia)

Nick Fetty | October 23, 2014

The Offices of Sustainability at the University of Iowa and Iowa State University held events this week to celebrate Campus Sustainability Day 2014: Empowering Change on Campus and in the Community which took place on Wednesday.

The University of Iowa decided to turn the one-day event into a week long celebration. Students at the UI can stop by the Main Library between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. today or at Kautz Plaza on the T. Anne Cleary walkway during the same time on Friday to take a survey and calculate their carbon footprint. Yesterday’s event included a webinar which featured “higher education sustainability leaders discussing ways in which students can make a difference, be a part of sustainability solutions, and build a career in the sustainability field.” Various UI student organizations participated in the event including the UI Environmental Coalition, Eco-Hawk, the UI Student Garden, and UI Student Government.

“It’s important for students to be educated on this topic so when they leave our campus, they can help build a sustainable world,” director of the UI Office of Sustainability Liz Christiansen said in an interview with The Daily Iowan.

Iowa State University provided students with free coffee mugs and bike tune-ups to celebrate Campus Sustainability Day. The day also served as a food drive for the SHOP (Students Helping Our Peers) food bank. More than a dozen student groups and local businesses participated.

Campus Sustainability Day began in 2003. More than 70 colleges and universities across the country hosted events to celebrate this year’s event.

Flood sensor expansion continues


A stream sensor attached to a bridge, placed by the Iowa Flood Center. (Iowa Flood Center photo / Flickr)
A stream sensor attached to a bridge, placed by the Iowa Flood Center. (Iowa Flood Center photo / Flickr)
KC McGinnis | October 22, 2014

The Iowa Flood Center is dramatically expanding the scope of its river and stream sensor network across the state this fall.

The Flood Center, which has installed 200 river and stream gauges since 2010, will add an additional 50 sensors in collaboration with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. These gauges monitor water levels in real time and send the data back to the Iowa Flood Information System (IFIS), which can be viewed by the public. Citizens, landowners and governments can then use this web-based tool to look for flood warnings, monitor water levels upstream from their location, and see exactly how far flood waters will reach in a given situation.

The sensors, which are usually installed on bridges, measure the distance to the water by sending an electronic pulse every 15 minutes. The availability of such precise measurements has already had a significant impact on local businesses, especially those located in floodplains. The sensors, which cost around $3,500 each, can save businesses thousands more by preventing losses in production and labor during flood season.

Iowa Flood Center staff and students will install the new sensors over the coming weeks. Watch the video below to learn more about how these sensors are installed across the state.

On the Radio: Iowa scientists connect state water quality issues to climate change


Morning fog rises off of Lake MacBride near Solon, IA. The lake reported a massive fish kill due in part to blue-green algae earlier this year. (KC McGinnis / for CGRER)
Morning fog rises off of Lake MacBride near Solon, IA. The lake reported a massive fish kill due in part to blue-green algae earlier this year. (KC McGinnis / for CGRER)
October 20, 2014

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at highlights from the Iowa Climate Statement 2014: Impacts on the Health of Iowans, released Friday, October 10. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: Climate Statement 2

Climate change causes extreme weather, increased flooding and resulting water pollution, which is threatening the health of Iowans.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The Iowa Climate Statement 2014: Impacts on the Health of Iowans, released in October, examined how repeated heavy rains and the resulting flooding have led to increased exposure to toxic chemicals and raw sewage, which can have negative effects on health for humans and animals.

The fourth annual statement was signed by 180 scientists and researchers from 38 colleges and universities across Iowa.

Heavy rains in agricultural areas causes phosphorus and nitrates to run off fields and into waterways. These polluted waterways coupled with increased water temperature have spurred algal blooms on still bodies of water during peak summer heats. These algal blooms make the water unsafe for human or animal consumption or recreation.

For more information about the Iowa Climate Statement 2014, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

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

 

Respected climate scientist and UI alum to visit Iowa City Thursday


Climate scientist and UI alumnus Dr. James Hansen (Contributed photo)
Climate scientist and UI alumnus Dr. James Hansen (Contributed photo)
KC McGinnis | October 15, 2014

Longtime climate scientist and University of Iowa alumnus James Hansen will visit Iowa City for a lecture on Thursday, October 16.

Hansen, who currently serves at Columbia University’s Earth Institute as director of its Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions program, earned his doctorate in physics from the UI in 1967. He is regarded as one of the first to raise awareness of global warming as a man-made threat, laid out in his 1988 hearing before Congress in which he said he was “99 percent certain” that global warming could be attributed to greenhouse gases.

His lecture, titled “Speaking Truth to Power: Lessons from Iowa and Relevance to Global Climate Policies” will be held in the Main Lounge of the Iowa Memorial Union from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday. The lecture is free and open to both students and the general public.

Hansen, who formerly served as Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, has spent decades studying human-induced climate change. He also specializes in identifying “greenwash,” deceptive marketing and PR strategies which give the appearance of eco-friendliness while in fact being merely aesthetic. His lecture, which is part of the UI Public Policy Center’s “Meeting the Renewable Energy Challenge” symposium, can also be streamed here.

On the Radio: Iowa Climate Statement highlights health risks from climate change


The Iowa Climate Statement 2014: Impacts on the Health of Iowans, outlined climate change issues that are affecting respiratory health among Iowans, like childhood allergy-induced asthma. (Kristy Faith/Flickr)
The Iowa Climate Statement 2014: Impacts on the Health of Iowans, outlined climate change issues that are affecting respiratory health among Iowans, like childhood allergy-induced asthma. (Kristy Faith/Flickr)

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at highlights from the Iowa Climate Statement 2014: Impacts on the Health of Iowans, released Friday. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: Iowa Climate Statement

Hotter temperatures, higher humidity levels, and other conditions attributed to climate change are hurting the health of Iowans, according to leading Iowa scientists.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The Iowa Climate Statement 2014: Impacts on the Health of Iowans, released in October, outlined climate change issues that are affecting respiratory and cardiovascular health. The fourth annual statement was signed by 180 scientists and researchers from 38 colleges and universities across Iowa.

With a longer growing season, plants produce more pollen – pollen that is increasingly potent – making it more difficult for many Iowans to breathe. Childhood asthma rates are also on the rise, due in part to higher indoor moisture levels. Rising temperatures have allowed disease-carrying mosquitos and ticks to migrate further north into the Midwest, resulting in cases of Dengue Fever and Ehrlichiosis being reported in Iowa this year.

For more information about the Iowa Climate Statement 2014, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

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

Iowa agriculture groups back water quality alliance


Standing water in an Iowa field during the summer of 2014 (Carl Wycoff/Flickr)

Standing water in an Iowa field during the summer of 2014 (Carl Wycoff/Flickr)

KC McGinnis | October 1, 2014

A recently launched nonprofit organization backed by three of Iowa’s largest agricultural groups hopes it can help Iowa farmers protect water quality.

Funded by the Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and Iowa Pork Producers Association, the Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance (IAWA) was launched in late August to assist Iowa farmers in implementing the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. The strategy, developed after a request from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2008, is an initiative by farmers, scientists and water treatment plants to reduce the amount of nitrate and phosphorus being released into Iowa waterways. Most of these nutrients are released from farms and other agricultural producers, and can cause significant problems for habitats all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

The IAWA intends to work with researchers and agriculture stakeholders to increase understanding of nutrient reduction methods. It stresses continued flexibility for farmers, who are encouraged but not mandated to implement the elements of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

A recent report, however, casts doubt on the effectiveness of this voluntary approach for agricultural producers, who contribute the vast majority of phosphorus and nitrate to Iowa waterways. This could be because of a lack of awareness or understanding of the program. Last year, only half of Iowa farmers surveyed who were aware of the Nutrient Reduction Strategy chose to participate, and about a third were unaware of the program altogether.