Iowa City Climate Fest – Day Four: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – and Repair


Via Flickr

Nicole Welle | September 24, 2020

The Iowa City Climate Fest kicks off day four today with activities that focus on keeping non-recyclable materials out of recycling bins and repairable items out of landfills.

One in four items sent to recycling centers aren’t recyclable, according to the Iowa City Climate Fest page. To help combat this problem, today’s personal challenge asks people to try out a DIY Home Recycling Audit to check their recycling for misplaced items that frequent Iowa City’s recycling bins. Once people know which materials to look for, they can let their friends and family know to help stop misplaced materials from ending up in local recycling centers.

For today’s community event, locals are encouraged to check out a map of repair resources in and around Iowa City that shows where they can take their damaged goods and appliances that could otherwise end up in the local landfill. Opting to repair damaged items rather than throwing away and replacing them is both good for the environment and a great way to save money. For those who would rather fix their broken items themselves, there is also a virtual Fit-It Fair with instructions on how to do it and a map showing area resources where tools and equipment are available to borrow or rent.

Check out the Iowa City Climate Fest page to learn more about how you can get involved and help celebrate the ways the Iowa City community is doing their part to address climate change.

Iowa City Climate Fest – Day Three: Better buildings build a better future


Screenshot from the climate festival’s green building map.

Maxwell Bernstein | September 23, 2020

Iowa City’s Climate Fest is on its third day and will focus on how energy-efficient buildings can. save money.

The personal challenge for day 3 includes weatherizing your home for the winter. The climate fest provides this video from the U.S. Department of Energy that can save home-owners up to $83 a year with just one adjustment to the thermostat. The fest is also offering some simple and inexpensive DIY projects that can provide more savings for homes and apartments. 

The community event offers this link to check out LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) buildings in Iowa City. The Iowa City Climate Fest website offers more links and information to learn about green buildings. 

Climate Change is now Inevitable


Image from EPA

Maxwell Bernstein | September 23, 2020

Climate change is inevitable and natural disasters that are similar to those currently affecting the Gulf and West Coast will be twice as bad as they are now, if not worse, according to The New York Times

Proper actions are needed to mitigate some of the effects of climate change such as planning for the effects of natural disasters and rising sea levels, along with reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.

The succession of storms in the Gulf Coast and the record-breaking fires in the West Coast are all exacerbated by the changing climate, which stems from human-produced CO2 emission’s ability to trap heat. The frequency and severity of natural disasters will increase over time.

The Environmental Protection Agency said in August, “The global average atmospheric carbon dioxide in 2019 was 409.8 parts per million (ppm for short), with a range of uncertainty of plus or minus 0.1 ppm. Carbon dioxide levels today are higher than at any point in at least the past 800,000 years.”

As of Saturday, the Metronome, a large public art installation in Union Square in New York City now displays the Climate Clock, a time limit, “to curb greenhouse gas emissions enough to give the Earth a two-thirds chance of staying below 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming, as compared to pre-industrial times,” according to CBS news. 

As of now, the clock gives 7 years and 99 days to reach this goal. 

Iowa City Climate Fest – Day Two: Taco ‘bout a sustainable lifestyle


Via Flickr

Thomas Robinson | September 22, 2020

Iowa City’s Climate Fest begins its second day and will be focused on sustainable lifestyles.

The title for the second day of the fest is “Taco ‘bout a sustainable lifestyle” and the personal challenge is to eat a plant-based meal.  Local restaurants are participating in the climate fest and can be found using this map for taco options.  A plant based diet has been shown to positively influence land use which can help to slow climate change.    

For Tuesday’s community event, FilmScene will be hosting the movie The Biggest Little Farm online for free.  The movie can be watched at any point during the day, but Iowa City’s Climate Action staff will be live tweeting the film starting at 7 pm.  The movie will be followed by a discussion beginning at 8:30 and will include panelists from the Climate Action Division, Field to Family, and Film Scene.

Iowa City Climate Fest Kicks off This Week


GCRER Co-director Jerry Schnoor discusses the importance of climate action.

Nicole Welle|September 21, 2020

The Iowa City Climate Fest begins today and will celebrate the different ways that our community is coming together to address climate change throughout the week.

There will be no in-person activities this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the organizers have planned daily personal challenges and virtual community events to keep the celebration going. Details can be accessed through their website. Today’s activities center around celebrating better transportation options, and there will be a knew theme each day.

Local businesses, organizations, and individuals can also get involved by printing off coloring sheets to decorate and hang in windows or submit videos, pictures or posts telling their personal climate action story. Anyone who is interested in taking alternative actions for reducing emissions in Iowa City is also encouraged to check out their Climate Action Toolkit.

Hurricane Sally Hit the Gulf Coast on Wednesday as Wildfires Rage on in West Coast


Image of Hurricane Sally from NASA

Maxwell Bernstein | September 18, 2020

Hurricane Sally hit near Gulf Shores, Ala. on Wednesday as a Category 2 hurricane, and caused 377 people to require rescue in the Florida Panhandle, according to the New York Times

Around 275,000 people are without electricity in Alabama and 240,000 Floridians are without power. 

This hurricane season is the most active hurricane on record, with around 20 storms so far. The active hurricane season and the fires in the West Coast are heavily exacerbated by climate change, which will only create more severe weather conditions, according to The New York Times. 

Iowa DNR Issued Water Quality Warnings for Half of State Park Beaches This Summer


Via Flickr

Nicole Welle | September 17, 2020

The Iowa DNR issued advisories for over half of state park beaches this summer due to unsafe levels of E. Coli bacteria or microcystins in the water.

DNR conducted weekly tests Memorial Day through Labor day, and 39 state park beaches had at least one week during the summer where toxin levels were high enough to trigger a warning. They reported a total of 118 advisories over the summer, an increase from the 79 advisories issued in 2019, according to a Cedar Rapids Gazette article.

E. Coli, which indicates the presence of feces in the water, was responsible for most of the warnings. However, elevated levels of microcystins, which caused 12 advisories, can lead to a range of health problems in people exposed to them. These include gastroenteritis, allergic reactions and potentially life-threatening liver damage. Microcystins are produced by certain types of freshwater blue-green algae.

Studies have shown that much of the bacteria and toxins causing the warnings come from manure runoff and contaminates from nearby fields. Sandy beaches also tend to have higher levels of bacteria from manure from geese and other animals. Higher levels of toxic algae blooms, however, can have a variety of causes. Weather, temperature, nutrient availability and other environmental stressors are all factors, according to Dan Kendall, and environmental specialist in charge of the beach monitoring program.

The DNR’s Lake Restoration Program has plans to begin reducing bacteria in some of Iowa’s lakes that have been most heavily affected and continue testing each summer to monitor toxin levels.

Trump Denies Climate Change as Wild Fires Burn Through the West Coast


Image from NASA

Maxwell Bernstein | September 16, 2020

The August Complex wildfires on the West Coast have resulted in more than five million acres burned, with 27 people dead, according to The New York Times. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced as the wildfires threaten and burn homes and communities. 

The wildfires are creating the worst air quality on the planet, according to the air quality tracker, PurpleAir.  

Climate change will increase the frequency and intensity of forest fires as warming temperatures create hot and dry conditions, according to NASA. Despite the scientific evidence, President Donald Trump and California Secretary for Natural Resources, Wade Crowfoot, debated over the validity of climate change. 

“It’ll start getting cooler. You just watch,” President Donald Trump said to Crowfoot, referring to the warming climate. 

“I wish science agreed with you,” said Crowfoot. 

“Well I don’t think science knows, actually,” replied President Donald Trump. 

Half of Soil Phosphorus Losses Attributed to Erosion


Via Flickr

Thomas Robinson | September 15th, 2020

According to a recent study, global phosphorus levels in soils are declining despite high levels of applied chemical fertilizers and soil erosion is to blame.

Researchers have analyzed global phosphorus levels in soils and found that all continents, except for Asia, Oceania, and Australia, have net negative soil phosphorus balances.  Phosphorus loss from soils poses a challenge to the global food supply because without phosphorus, an essential plant nutrient, crops are more susceptible to disease, and are likely to have stunted growth.  The most striking finding in the study was that around 50% of phosphorus losses from soils was attributed to soil erosion, a preventable but commonly neglected aspect of agriculture. 

Unfortunately, the phosphorus lost because of soil erosion poses another threat in the form of eutrophication. Eutrophication is caused by high levels of nutrients in aquatic ecosystems and is associated with declining water quality.  The increased nutrient concentrations promote large populations of algae, which consume large quantities of oxygen when they die and decompose.

Soil erosion in Iowa is a large concern as millions of tons of Iowa’s soil runs off tilled fields and into the rivers across the state each year.  Since soil erosion has now been identified as a leading cause for phosphorus losses in soils, Iowa is not only losing tons of topsoil per year, but also losing appreciable amounts of phosphorus as well.

Iowa DNR Proposes Budget Increase for Lake Restoration and Water Trails


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Nicole Welle | September 14, 2020

The Iowa Natural Resource Commission endorsed a budget for the DNR with increases for lake water quality projects, water trails and park infrastructure.

The Department of Management ordered the Iowa DNR to use the current budget as a baseline for the 2021-2022 proposal. DNR complied by doubling the budget in those three areas while keeping spending the same elsewhere. Most of the money in the budget comes from fees and grants rather than the state’s general fund, according to a DesMoines Register article.

All of the budget increases will come from the state’s gambling tax receipts if it is approved by the legislature. If the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission approves the current proposal, it will become a baseline for Gov. Kim Reynolds’ next proposal for the department.

Some raised questions about how an increase in the budget would affect possible cuts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. DNR Director Kayla Lyon said that she has not heard of any across-the-board cuts at this time, but it is possible that departments will have to consider reductions in spending later on.

The new budget will be submitted to the Department of Management by Oct. 1.