On The Radio – Pope Francis stresses environmental research

Pope Francis meets with U.S. President Barack Obama in the Vatican in 2014 (O'Dea/WikiMedia)
Pope Francis meets with U.S. President Barack Obama in the Vatican in 2014 (O’Dea/WikiMedia)
November 9, 2015

This week’s On The Radio segment looks at the address Pope Francis made to congress earlier this year, stressing the importance of environmental research in addressing the threats caused by climate change.

Transcript: Francis stresses environmental research

Pope Francis’ address to Congress last month stressed research as an answer to the environmental crisis caused by climate change.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

In an hour long speech, the Holy Father highlighted the potential for human ingenuity to help solve environmental problems.

“I am confident that America’s outstanding academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution in the years ahead.”

Francis has continued the thread laid by his predecessors Pope Benedict the 16th and Saint John Paul the second, who called for a “global ecological conversion.” The current degradation of the natural environment is indicative of what Francis calls “the throwaway culture.”

To address this, Francis called for a “right use of natural resources” that contributes to the common good, linking ecology to care for the poor. He was confident that American academic and research institutions could use their skills and new technologies to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity.

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

From the UI Center for Global & Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.

Des Moines event focuses on local and global impacts of climate change

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Nick Fetty | October 21, 2015

In preparation for the United Nation’s climate conference in Paris later this year, a forum sponsored by the Iowa United Nations Association and the University of Iowa’s Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research aims to educate Iowans about climate change in the Hawkeye State and abroad.

Drake University will host the 8th and final ‘Community Forums: Iowa, the United Nations, and Climate Change’ on Friday October 23. The forum will include speeches by several local and international experts including University of Oregon law professor Mary Christina Wood, Des Moines-based Bishop Richard E. Pates, and United Nations Association-USA Executive Director Chris Whatley, among others.

“The forum will engage students, community members, public officials, and policy experts in learning about international initiatives to address climate change and the ways in which growing awareness and action on climate issues in Iowa can help support these initiatives.”

Previous events in this series have taken place in Iowa City, Pella, Waterloo-Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Dubuque, and Ames. The 7th forum is scheduled for Thursday October 22 at the Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield. The event begins at 7 p.m. with a panel including Fairfield Mayor Ed Malloy, Dean of the MUM College of Business Administration Scott Herriott, Rob Stow of the Harvard University Climate Negotiation Project, and local climate activist Miriam Kashia.

Those attending Friday’s event must register beforehand. The event is open to the public and there is a $17 charge for those staying for lunch (no charge for students).

Editorial highlights 25 years of CGRER history

CGRER co-directors Jerry Schnoor (left) and Greg Carmichael. (CGRER)
CGRER co-directors Jerry Schnoor (left) and Greg Carmichael. (CGRER)

Nick Fetty | October 14, 2015

In recognition of the University of Iowa Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research’s (CGRER) 25th anniversary, center co-founders Greg Carmichael and Jerry Schnoor published an editorial focused on climate science in the Hawkeye State over the past two and a half decades.

“During the past 25 years, CGRER has grown from its initial 25 members to 110 who encompass the entire state. First and foremost, CGRER has remained a research center, bringing together investigators from broad disciplines including the natural and social sciences, humanities and engineering. Among other achievements, CGRER researchers discovered air pollutants like black carbon (soot) are powerful warming agents, and reducing these particles could improve health and climate change simultaneously.

In addition, CGRER has focused attention on how global climate change impacts are expressed at regional scales, demonstrating, for example, that Iowa and the Midwest are vulnerable to extreme weather events like the floods of 1993 and 2008. As the key role of humans in climate change became established the dialogue shifted to what mitigation and adaptation actions should be taken.”

CGRER was established in 1990 when state legislators set aside funds to establish an environmental research center at the University of Iowa and an energy research center at Iowa State University. Over the past 25 years CGRER researchers have published hundreds of articles with research taking place in nearly 50 different countries.

On Tuesday, Carmichael, Schnoor, and others participated in an event focused on climate change in Iowa as well as the politics of and the public’s interest in the issue. Carmichael and Schnoor will then be featured on Iowa Public Radio’s River to River beginning at noon on Thursday.

Event focuses on 25 years of climate change


Nick Fetty | October 12, 2015

A handful of Iowa professors, policy makers, and even a former Hawkeye football player will discuss the past 25 years of climate change during an event on Tuesday.

The event is in collaboration with the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research’s (CGRER) 25th anniversary and will feature presentations from CGRER co-founders Greg Carmichael and Jerry Schnoor, U.S congressman Dave Loebsack, Iowa state senator Joe Bolkcom, and former Iowa congressman David Osterberg, as well as former Hawkeye turned solar energy entrepreneur Tim Dwight. The program is divided into three 25-minute sections focusing on different aspects of climate change: science and the public interest, the effect of climate change in Iowa, and the politics of climate change.

The event is sponsored by WorldCanvass, a collaboration by UI International Programs, UI Video Services, and FilmScene. The event goes from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at FilmScene, 118 East College Street in Iowa City, and is open to the public. An hour-long social hour will take place prior to its 5 p.m. start time.

For a full schedule and for more details, click here.

3rd annual Iowa Climate Science Educators Forum

Photos by KC McGinnis

Nick Fetty | October 9, 2015

More than thirty scientists, students, and educators attended the third annual Iowa Climate Science Educators Forum at Des Moines University on Friday.

Iowa State University agronomy professor Brian Hornbuckle was the first to present, discussing ways to teach about the effects of greenhouse gas.

“The greenhouse effect is such an essential part of climate change [and] we need to make sure we teach about it correctly,” said Hornbuckle.

Hornbuckle teaches Introduction to Weather and Climate at Iowa State, a roughly 300-student lecture consisting mostly of freshmen. He said his focus is to dispel incorrect notions that his students may have about the greenhouse effect.

“The greenhouse effect is both a good and a bad thing,” he said. “We wouldn’t be able to live here if we didn’t have the greenhouse effect and I think it’s surprising for students to hear that. It’s a good thing and it’s essential for life but too much of a good thing can be bad.”

One of Horkbuckle’s teaching techniques is through the use of song. He changed the lyrics of Journey’s “Wheel in the Sky” to “The radiators in the sky keep on burning” as a catchy way to get through to his students.

David Courard-Hauri, an associate professor of environmental science and policy, discussed his Science and Policy of Climate course at Drake University. The course focuses on the intersection of science, social, and political issues in regard to climate.

“The question is how do we teach scale and feasibility?” asked Courard-Hauri.

One component of the course is a role-playing exercise in which students take on the role of a different country or interest group and how they would approach climate-related policy. Students use quantitative data to come up with policy suggestions which helps them to identify the scale of certain measures as well as the potential costs and costs savings of such measures.

“The idea is to encourage them to look for win-win scenarios,” said Courard-Hauri. “I feel they get a better sense of just doing a little good isn’t enough to get us where we want to go and that’s the main idea I try to get across.”

Grinnell College political science professor Wayne Moyer discussed his Applied Policy Analysis Climate Change course, which is composed of about 20 undergraduates. Students are required to read two books: Why We Disagree About Climate Change by Mike Hulme and Global Warming Gridlock by David G. Victor. The courses focuses on the intersection of science, economics, and politics. Moyer emphasized that scientific research is crucial for policy change.

“When you don’t know things exactly that creates policy problems,” he said.

The course also focuses on obstacles for implementing policies to address climate change, such as reasons for why people disagree about the issue usually involving their values, beliefs, and fears. One assignment requires students to persuade a skeptic that climate change is real. Moyer said that one of his students, who now serves on a republican congressional staff in Washington D.C., was the lone skeptic in his class and that this student brought an interesting perspective to the course.

“He listened to people on the other side and contributed lot. It was real asset,” said Moyer.

The morning part of the forum was rounded out with a series of shorter presentations. University of Iowa chemical engineering professor Charlie Stainer discussed his upper-level undergrad course, Green Chemical and Energy Technologies. University of Dubuque environmental chemistry professor Adam Hoffman discussed carbon dioxide and ocean acidification and effective techniques for teaching these concepts to students. The morning session concluded with a presentation from DMACC representatives who discussed ways in which their campuses have taken measures to reduce their carbon footprint.

Representatives from eight different Iowa colleges and universities attended the event including University of Iowa, Iowa State University, University of Northern Iowa, Drake University, University of Dubuque, Grinnell College, Des Moines Area Community College, and Southwest Community College.

Eleven House republicans sign climate resolution before papal visit

Pope Francis during a visit to Brazil in 2013. (Wikimedia Commons)

Nick Fetty | September 23, 2015

During his visit to the United States this week Pope Francis is expected to address congress about climate change but it seems that his message may have already gotten through to some republicans in the House of Representatives.

Last week 11 representatives signed a resolution acknowledging humans’ role in climate change in an effort led by Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.). The move is seen as bold as others in the Republican party have taken a hard stance against research suggesting climate change has been caused by humans.

“If conservation isn’t conservative, then words have no meaning at all,” Gibson told the Albany Times Union. “Part of being conservative is judicious conservation of resources, both man-made and natural.”

Other signers of the resolution include: Representatives Carlos Curbelo (Fla.), David Reichert (Wash.), Robert Dold (Ill.), Richard Hanna (N.Y.), Patrick Meehan (Pa.), Michael Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.), Ryan Costello (Pa.), Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), and Frank LoBiondo (N.J.).

“Most of the sponsors of the resolution come from swing districts and many are vulnerable to reelection challenges next year,” The Hill writes.

Pope Francis arrived in United States on Tuesday and was greeted by President Obama and his family. Francis is expected to address congress on Thursday morning before flying back to Rome on Sunday. Fifty University of Iowa students are among hundreds of other Iowans flocking to Philadelphia to partake in the events which culminate with a Mass service Sunday afternoon.