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

Event: Iowa Climate Festival 2015


(American Chemical Society)

Nick Fetty | April 10, 2015

This 2015 Iowa Climate Festival will take place on the University of Iowa campus Saturday.

The event will kickoff with a two-part symposium in the morning. The first part will focus on the climate effects of greenhouse gases and particles in the air. Featured speakers include Betsy Stone (UI Department of Chemistry), Vicki Grassian (UI Department of Chemistry), and Scott Spak (UI Public Policy Center). The second part will focus on the effects that climate change has on public health and Iowa’s agriculture. Speakers include Gene Takle (Iowa State University, Atmospheric Science), Peter Thorne (UI Public Health), and Wanda Reiter-Kintz (State Hygienic Laboratory). Attendees will have an opportunity to ask questions at the end of each session.

The Climate Science Fair is scheduled for the afternoon. Attendees can partake in hands-on experiments to learn about the composition of greenhouse gases, how clouds are formed, how particles in the air cool the earth, why oceans are becoming more acidic, how albedo affects climate change, and more.

Coinciding with the event will be the Iowa City Recycling Logo Competition. The City of Iowa City is accepting entries from local students and the winning design will used on the side of Iowa City recycling trucks. All entires must be displayed at the museum and juding will end at 3 p.m.

This event is free and open to the public. For more information and for a full schedule of events visit the American Chemical Society’s website.

Sponsors for this year’s event include: the Iowa section of the American Chemical Society, University of Iowa Department of Chemistry, Museum of Natural History, Office of Sustainability, State Hygienic Laboratory, National Science Foundation, Center for Aerosol Impacts on Climate and the Environment (CAICE), Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research (CGRER), and the City of Iowa City.

On the Radio: Agriculture now highest source of greenhouse gases in Iowa


Cattle grazing in a field in Story County (Carl Wycoff, Flickr).
Cattle grazing in a field in Story County (Carl Wycoff, Flickr).

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at the Iowa DNR’s 2013 Greenhouse Gas inventory, which shows that Iowa’s agriculture industry is now the leading contributor to greenhouse gas emissions for the state. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Agriculture is now the number one contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Iowa.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resourcesʼ 2013 Greenhouse Gas inventory report
found that Iowaʼs agriculture industry contributes to 27 percent of the stateʼs
greenhouse gas emissions.

The figure is due in part to Iowaʼs increasing dependence on wind energy, which has
drastically decreased the need for coal use over the last decade and brought emissions
from electric power generation down to 25 percent.

Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture include those from animal digestive
systems, plant fertilizers and agricultural runoff. The most common of these gases are
methane and nitrous oxide.

Although agricultural emissions increased last year, Iowaʼs total emissions have now
decreased for three straight years.

For more information about greenhouse gas emissions, visit
IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, Iʼm Jerry
Schnoor.

http://www.iowadnr.gov/InsideDNR/RegulatoryAir/GreenhouseGasEmissions/
GHGInventories.aspx

On the Radio: Iowa stays ahead in wind generation


An Iowa wind farm (Brian Hoffman / Flickr)
An Iowa wind farm (Brian Hoffman / Flickr)
March 23, 2015

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at an assessment of Iowa’s wind energy industry that shows the state still leads the nation in percentage of wind energy production. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: Iowa Wind

With over 3,400 turbines, Iowa maintained its third-place ranking in wind energy generation last year.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The American Wind Energy Association recently released fact sheets for each state,
showing that Iowa sits behind only Texas and California in wind projects added as of last year. Iowa still leads the nation in energy percentage from wind, with 27 percent,
resulting in a wind capacity of over 5,000 megawatts. Thatʼs enough to power nearly 1.5
million homes.

Even with those gains, the Association estimates wind power could meet
the stateʼs electricity needs forty times over. Iowa has one of the largest turbine
manufacturers in the country and two of the largest blade manufacturers.

The report shows that thanks to wind, Iowa avoided over 9 million metric tons of CO2
emissions and saved over 3 billion gallons in water usage.

For more information about wind energy, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, Iʼm Jerry
Schnoor.

http://awea.files.cms-plus.com/FileDownloads/pdfs/Iowa.pdf

Obama orders fed gov’t to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, more emphasis on renewable energy


President Obama recently signed an executive order calling for the federal government to reduce grennhouse gas emissions while putting more emphasis on renewable energy sources. (Steve Jurvetson/Flickr)
President Obama recently signed an executive order calling for the federal government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while putting more emphasis on renewable energy sources. (Steve Jurvetson/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | March 20, 2015

President Obama signed an executive order on Thursday calling for the federal government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent compared to 2008 levels over the next decade. The order also calls for renewable energy sources to make up 30 percent of total electricity consumption over the same period. The plan is expected to save taxpayers $18 million in electricity costs.

“We thought it was important for us to lead by example,” Obama said in an interview with the Associated Press. “These are ambitious goals, but we know they’re achievable goals.”

The Obama administration hopes that this decision will serve as a model for encouraging other nations to deal with the effects of climate change. Other nations are expected to set similar carbon emission and renewable energy goals as part of a global climate treaty to be finalized in December.

According to the most recent data available, the federal government contributed to less than one percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2013. Obama also lauded efforts made by private sector companies such as General Electric, IBM, and Northrup Grumman which have taken voluntary steps at mitigating the effects of climate change.

This announcement comes on the heels of last month’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2015 which calls for a 7 percent increase in funding for clean energy and $4 billion to encourage further reduction in power plant emissions.