On The Radio – Dubuque mayor calls for efforts to mitigate human-induced climate change

CGRER's Nick Fetty interviews with Dubuque mayor Roy Buol at the COP21 confernece in Paris on December 8, 2015. (KC McGinnis/CGRER)
CGRER’s Nick Fetty (left) interviews with Dubuque mayor Roy Buol at the COP21 confernece in Paris on December 8, 2015. (KC McGinnis/CGRER)
December 28, 2015

This week’s On The Radio segment looks at Dubuque mayor Roy Buol and efforts his city has taken to address human-induced climate change.

Transcript: Dubuque’s Mayor Buol says action needed to address climate change

Dubuque Mayor Roy Buol was among more than 500 mayors from around the world in Paris earlier this month as part of the COP21 international climate conference.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

During his visit to the City of Light, Mayor Buol met with three other mayors from the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative – as well as mayors from other river basins around the world – to discuss clean water, food production, and other environmental sustainable initiatives that the different communities have undertaken.

Buol discussed some of the efforts taking place in his northeast Iowa city of nearly 60,000 residents such as the Bee Branch Storm Water Project which aims to redirect water flow in one of the city’s more flood-vulnerable neighborhoods following heavy rains and flash flooding.

Buol shared this effort with other mayors with the hope they might be able to pursue similar projects in their own communities. He said that human-induced climate change is something that needs to be addressed and that can be done through measures implemented by city-level governments.

BUOL: “The reality is that the climate is changing and it’s changing at a rate that has really accelerated compared to past history. The ebbs and flows of climate. I’m convinced man is a part of that process and we’re already seeing those changes occurring across the country, across the world. Extreme rains events, extreme drought events, temperature rises, sea-level rises. If we don’t start to mitigate those things now we’re going to be a point soon that it’s irreversible.”

For full text and video from the interview with Mayor Buol, visit Iowa-Environmental-Focus-dot-org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Nick Fetty.

Experts weigh in on carbon sequestration in soil at COP 21

Hans ? presents at a conference focused on agriculture and soil health on Thursday, Deceember 10, 2015 as part of COP 21 in Paris France. (KC McGinnis/CGRER)
Hans Herren presents at a conference focused on agriculture and soil health on Thursday, December 10, 2015 as part of COP 21 in Paris France. (KC McGinnis/CGRER)
Nick Fetty | December 10, 2015

PARIS – Experts from around the world weighed in on the importance of carbon sequestration and other sustainable agricultural practices during a conference Thursday morning.

The United Nations General Assembly declared 2015 “the International Year of Soil” which was the focus of the “Agroeology and Soil Solutions” conference in the Green Zone at COP 21. The event featured a four-person panel with each participant having expertise in a different aspect of agriculture or soil science. Before the panel gave their individual presentations, the approximately 50 attendees were shown a four-minute documentary produced by the Center for Food Safety and narrated by food journalist Michael Pollan.

“In one handful of soil there are more organisms than there are humans on earth and we are only beginning to understand the vast network of beings right beneath our feet,” Pollan said in the film’s opening scene.

The short film discussed the impact of over-farming and other unsustainable practices that remove carbon from the soil and release it into the atmosphere, contributing to rising temperatures and other effects of climate change.

Hans Herren – President and CEO of the Washington D.C.-based Millennium Institute – was the first panelist to present. Herren holds a PhD in Biological Control from the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland and part of his presentation focused on the science behind carbon sequestration as he emphasized the need for dietary changes to improve soil health.

“If you don’t change the diet farmers can’t change the way they produce. People’s behavior in terms of diet is essential,” he said.

Kristine Nichols – Chief Scientist for the Pennsylvania-based Rodale Institute – was next to take the podium as she focused on research her center had done on a farm in Ohio. Nichols – who holds a PhD in Soil Science from the University of Maryland – said the carbon problem can actually be part of the solution.

“Really what we’ve got is a carbon problem and the problem is that we don’t have carbon in our soil.”

Nichols also addressed the negative effects of synthetic fertilizer and ways in which agriculture has become less efficient over the past half century.

“It takes more synthetic nitrogen fertilizer now to grow a ton of grain than it used to take in 1960,” she said. “Our systems are becoming far more inefficient because we’re not utilizing the biology.”

Nichols concluded her presentation with an interactive demonstration of the ability of different soils to retain water, showing that healthy soil can more easily retain moisture and filter excess liquid down to groundwater. Water retention not only helps soils to be more healthy but it also mitigates erosion and nutrient run off, both of which are concerns for farmers in Iowa.

The last of the panelists to speak was Precious Phiri, founder of the Zimbabwe-based EarthWisdom Consulting Co. Phiri focused on ways that grasslands, waterways, and livelihoods can be improved for African farmers and ranchers through better livestock management practices.

“We depend on livestock to get back our grasslands,” she said, adding “Overgrazing is an issue of time and not numbers.”

Phiri pointed out several examples in her homeland where proper grazing and agricultural techniques led to more permanent vegetation and waterways in the arid region.

The event concluded with a short question and answer session. During this time Nichols addressed the need for good research and the dissemination of information as well as strong policy that can lead to improved conditions.

“We needs to provide consistent and good information to people,” she said, adding “It is policies on the departmental level that would be beneficial.”

On The Radio – Several Iowans to attend Paris climate conference

The Paris climate conference, also known as COP 21, begins today and continues through December 11. (Robin Tournadre/Flickr)
The Paris climate conference, or COP 21, begins today and continues through December 11. (Robin Tournadre/Flickr)
November 30, 2015

This week’s On The Radio segment looks at Iowans attending the climate conference in Paris which begins today and continues through December 11.

Transcript: Several Iowans to attend Paris climate conference

Several prominent Iowa researchers and policy makers will be at an international climate summit being held in Paris this month.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will be held from November 30 to December 11. There, delegates from 196 nations will seek to reach a legally-binding agreement on a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

Des Moines mayor Frank Cownie, University of Iowa professor of civil and environmental engineering Jerry Schnoor, and Dubuque mayor Roy Buol will be among the Iowans present at the conference. Two dozen Mississippi River mayors have met since September to discuss the impacts of climate change on their river economies and the importance of cleaning up the Mississippi. A group of these mayors including mayor Buol will discuss these issues with delegates from seven of the world’s major river basins.

Dr. Schnoor will be reporting on findings from the conference for the American Chemical Society while the University of Iowa’s Andrea Cohen will be representing the Iowa United Nations Association. CGRER will also be providing continuous updates from the conference.

For more info about the Paris climate talks visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

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


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.