On the Radio: Power grid braces for climate change


Old power lines being fed by renewable wind turbines in Dexter, Minn. (Elvis Kennedy/Flickr)
Old power lines being fed by renewable wind turbines in Dexter, Minn. (Elvis Kennedy/Flickr)
May 26, 2015

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at a U.S. Department of Energy effort to overhaul the current power grid in anticipation of future extreme weather events associated with climate change. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

IN APRIL, THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY RELEASED A REPORT CALLING FOR AN OVERHAUL OF THE CURRENT POWER GRID TO BETTER HANDLE EXTREME WEATHER EVENTS ASSOCIATED WITH CLIMATE CHANGE.

THIS IS THE IOWA ENVIRONMENTAL FOCUS.

THE REPORT STATED THAT SEVERE WEATHER HAS BEEN THE LEADING CAUSE OF POWER DISRUPTIONS IN THE U.S., CAUSING BETWEEN 18- AND 33-BILLION-DOLLARS IN DAMAGES EACH YEAR. THE REPORT’S AUTHORS EXPECT THAT THE EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE WILL CAUSE MORE SEVERE WEATHER AND WORSEN THESE DAMAGES. DURING THE UNVEILING OF THE PLAN IN PHILADELPHIA, VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN SAID THAT MORE ENERGY IS BEING PRODUCED FROM WIND AND SOLAR, WHICH PRESENTS PROBLEMS FOR THE GRID IN TIMES OF POWER OUTAGES, PARTICULARLY IN RURAL AREAS WHERE THE INFRASTRUCTURE LAGS BEHIND THE TECHNOLOGY.

THE REPORT RECOMMENDS SPENDING MORE THAN FIFTEEN-BILLION-DOLLARS OVER THE NEXT DECADE TO IMPROVE THE GRID AND MAKE ENERGY INFRASTRUCTURE MORE RESILIANT TO EXTREME WEATHER AND OTHER EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE REPORT, VISIT IOWA-ENVIRONMENTAL-FOCUS-DOT-ORG.

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

SOURCE: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-21/white-house-unveils-road-map-for-upgrading-energy-infrastructure

Iowa Climate Statement 2015 calls for presidential hopefuls to address climate change


Chris Anderson, Assistant Director of the Climate   Science Program at Iowa State University, spoke during the press conference for the 2015 Iowa Climate Statement at the Iowa capitol in Des Moines on Monday May 11, 2015. (Joe Bolkcom/Twitter)
Chris Anderson, Assistant Director of the Climate  
Science Program at Iowa State University, spoke during the press conference for the 2015 Iowa Climate Statement at the Iowa capitol in Des Moines on Monday May 11, 2015. (Joe Bolkcom/Twitter)

Nick Fetty | May 12, 2015

DES MOINES – Authors of the “Iowa Climate Statement 2015: Time for Action” presented their findings and called for presidential hopefuls to address climate change while on the campaign trail during a press conference at the statehouse on Monday.

This year’s statement was signed by 188 scientists and researchers from 39 colleges and universities across the state. Traditionally the climate statement is released in the fall but this year it was a released early as a way to encourage presidential hopefuls visiting the Hawkeye State to address climate change and its affects during their campaigns. The lead authors of the fifth annual statement felt that Iowa’s role as the first in the nation caucus gives the state a unique opportunity to bring these issues into the national spotlight.

“Our goal is to clearly communicate the expected impacts of climate changes on Iowa, to ensure decisions are based upon accurate, current scientific information,” said David Courard‐Hauri, Director of the Environmental Science and
Policy Program at Drake University. “This year with presidential candidates visiting Iowa for the 2016 caucuses, we felt that it makes sense to step back, summarize what we’ve done in the past, and encourage Iowans to find out from politicians how they expect to engage this issue.”

The authors felt that climate change has largely been ignored by presidential candidates from both parties in past years.

“This is unacceptable and we’re calling on voters in the state and members of the press who are interviewing candidates or asking them 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,” Courard‐Hauri said.

Chris Anderson, Assistant Director of the Climate Science Program at Iowa State University, stated that there are 13,950 peer-reviewed scientific publications that have attributed humans as being the primary causes of climate change. He compared the peer review process to receiving a second medical opinion from a physician and cited that a mere 24 publications (out of 13,974) haven’t connected climate change to human activity.

“In Iowa we are already feeling the affects of climate change,” Anderson said. “What we have seen in Iowa is an increase in frequency of the number of excessively wet springs and an increased frequency in the number of excessively wet days and these are causing substantial damages to our cities and our farmland.”

Anderson added that many of these conditions are expected to worsen in the coming years.

Yogi Shah, Associate Dean  of the Department of Global Health at Des Moines University, focused on the health affects of climate change, many of which were addressed in the Iowa Climate Statement 2014: Impacts on the Health of Iowans. He cited that due to temperature and other weather pattern changes associated with climate change, Iowans are experiencing an additional 19 days of allergies compared to previous years.

Additionally, increased temperatures and carbon levels have led to a greater number of mosquito-borne and other diseases spread by insects.

“[With] every degree rise in temperature, [the] mosquito population grows by eight to tenfold,” he said.

These issues of increased extreme weather events and the associated health complications again come back to the need for policymakers to take action, particularly those seeking to become the next president of the United States.

“Iowans take our role in choosing candidates very seriously and we deserve to have a clear picture of how each candidate plans to guide our country in the face of a changing climate,” Courard‐Hauri said. “Moreover the 188 signers who study and teach about climate speak with one voice in our effort to make extremely clear to Iowans and members of the news media, how important this issue is to cover, to report on, and to ask candidates about.”

Check out the Cedar Rapids Gazette  for additional coverage from Monday’s event.

Al Gore discusses climate change during visit to Iowa


Former vice president Al Gore visited Cedar Rapids on Tuesday. (openDemocrary/Flickr)
Former vice president Al Gore visited Cedar Rapids on Tuesday. (openDemocrary/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | May 7, 2015

Former vice president Al Gore said Iowa’s role as the first in the nation caucus could serve as a platform to address climate change at the national level during his stop in Cedar Rapids earlier this week.

“It’s hard to miss the importance of a state that is simultaneously the first contest in the presidential contest and the number one producer of wind electricity in the country with a fast-growing solar economy also,” Gore told The Des Moines Register. “You put those two things together and I think Iowa has a tremendous potential for pushing this onto the agenda of (presidential) candidates in both parties.”

Gore’s visit to Cedar Rapids on Tuesday was a part of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps, a four city tour sponsored by The Climate Reality Program (launched by Gore in 2011 to promote awareness about climate change) which also includes stops in Miami, Toronto, and New Delhi. This mini tour is part of a series of events leading up to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting scheduled to take place this December in Paris.

Cedar Rapids was chosen as a stop on the tour not just because of Iowa’s impact on the upcoming election cycle but also its role as a renewable energy leader and major food producer. Gore and other officials with the project educated Iowans about the effects of climate change and how the Hawkeye State will be affected unless action is taken.

The  three-day conference ends today.

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]unaiowa.org.

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 IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org

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

http://now.uiowa.edu/2015/02/ui-researchers-link-smoke-fires-tornado-intensity

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2014GL062826/abstract