On the Radio- Budget cuts for Australia’s Department of Environment and Energy

The melomys were the first mammalian extinction caused by global warming. (Alan C/flickr)

Eden DeWald | June 25, 2018

This week’s segment focuses on changes within the Australia Department of Environment and Energy.


Budget cuts threaten Australia’s ability to protect its endangered species.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Australia is home to over 7,000 native species, 506 of which are listed under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. Australia’s Department of Environment and Energy is responsible for coming up with recovery plans for these endangered species, but federal budget cuts may hinder these plans.

The department is cutting up to sixty staff members, a move that draws concern from conservationists in Australia. Monitoring endangered species is an essential step in moving to protect them.

Endangered species that have a recovery plan fare better than ones that don’t. Biologist John Woinarski approved a recovery plan for the heavily endangered—and now extinct—Bramble Cay melomys, but the plan was never implemented. The melomys were the first mammalian extinction caused by global warming, and Australian environmentalists consider this to be a warning.

For more information, visit our website at iowa environmental focus dot org.

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

Who is responsible for protecting Iowa’s water?

In the wake of the Des Moines Water Works lawsuit, Iowans are faced with the question, who is responsible for protecting our water? (Tony Webster/Wikipedia)

Katelyn Weisbrod | June 22, 2018

This week’s episode of “Our Water, Our Land,” looks to the Des Moines Water Works a little over a year after a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit involving the utility.

In 2015, Des Moines Water Works sued Sac, Calhoun, and Buena Vista counties, claiming the northern Iowa counties were responsible for high nitrate levels in the Raccoon River — a source of water for 500,000 Iowans. The utility spent $1.5 million in 2015 removing nitrates from the water so it was safe for consumption.

The Des Moines Water Works was criticized for its decision to take the issue to court by politicians and rural Iowans, for both the legal costs and the blame on farmers.

Professor Neil Hamilton of the Agricultural Law Center at Drake University said the lawsuit has brought attention to the issue of water quality in the state of Iowa, and has raised the question of, who is responsible for keeping water safe and clean?

To learn more, watch the full episode below.

Communicating climate change through local meteorologists

The communicators of local weather may be the key to spreading the word about climate change. (Don Amaro/Wikipedia)

Katelyn Weisbrod | June 21, 2018

Over the last five years, coverage of climate change in local TV weather has increased 15 times, NBC News reports.

In 2012, local TV weathercasts reported 55 stories related to climate change, but that could be as high as 1,000 in 2018, according to data from the Center for Climate Change Communication.

A nonprofit organization called Climate Central has been educating meteorologists about climate change, who are familiar faces and often trusted sources in communities. By communicating climate science to their viewers, meteorologists can have a huge impact on overall perspectives on climate change, which may lead deniers to believe, and believers to take action.

Climate Central provides stations with pre-made graphics and data that they can include in their nightly reports. Connecting short-term weather events with long-term climate patterns can be tricky, but Climate Central helps to bridge this gap and make accurate yet understandable connections between the weather that people experience locally and the climate change that is occurring at the global scale.

Coastal homes are threatened by sea level rise

Beautiful sea front property is being threatened by sea level rise. (flickr/sdobie)

Eden DeWald | June 20th, 2018

Coastal homes all the way from Maine to Florida are feeling the threat of sea level rise. Approximately 300,000 homes along the East and West Coast of the United States are at risk for reoccurring flooding due to sea level rise. According to National Geographic, the global mean sea level has risen four to eight inches over the past century. However, the rate at which sea level is rising has been twice as fast for the last 20 years when compared to the first 80 years of the last century.

Sea level rise is caused by three main factors, all of which are consequences of climate change. Thermal expansion, the melting of ice over Antarctica and Greenland, and the melting of polar ice caps and glaciers, all contribute to the measurable rise that researchers have observed over the past century. In 2012, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted that sea level could rise up to 38 inches by 2100.

Sea level rise has serious consequences for homeowners. By 2045, the slowly creeping disaster of chronic flooding could pose great threats to coastal housing markets. The Union of Concerned Scientists conducted a study on the effect that sea level will have on the East Coast and the Gulf area. Kirsten Dahl, an author of the study, stated that the loss of tax revenue from affected homes could cut the tax base of small towns by as much as 70 percent. Coastal homes are highly sought after real estate, but buying a beach house may not be the luxury it once was.


A Silent Summer: Why insects are in danger

There is a growing concern over the slow decline of flying insects (/stock)

Natalia Welzenbach-Marcu | June 19th, 2018

Insects and bugs are not everyone’s favorite creatures. They are, however, essential to a healthy and balanced ecosystem. And some of them may be in danger of declining.

The decline in the number of flying bugs was spotted first in Britain, where casual observers started noting a lack of bug debris on their windshields. Known as the “windscreen phenomenon“, citizens started writing letters to The Telegraph, noting the strange lack of insect bodies on their windshields as they drove through the countryside.

Where have all my insects gone?” one citizen wrote.

This strange insect silence has been attributed to everything from pesticides to climate change, but the answers are still unclear. The absence of these flying bugs is eerily reminiscent of the honey bee decline that struck the United States back in 2007, when Colony Collapse Disorder was threatening to severely impact the honey bee population.

While anecdotes about the sudden lack of insects on car windows are frequent, proving definitively that these insects are declining is a bit more difficult. A State of Nature 2016 report released in the UK details the decline of flora and fauna, and the volunteer-run data collection site suggests that insects in the UK have declined roughly 59% since 1970.

State of Nature and other similar nature and environment report sites rely on volunteers most of the time to data-gather, and the hope is that this collection of data can help trace the causes of animal and plant declines.


On the Radio- Beavers may help to reduce pollution

A beaver perches on the shore (Bryn D/flickr)

Eden DeWald | June 18, 2018

This week’s segment focuses on a new study about the ecosystem services that beavers provide.


Beavers could help contain pollutants in ponds and streams.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Hydrology professor Richard Brazier at the University of Exeter in England led a study observing a family of beavers. The beavers have been living in a secured re-creation of their habitat since 2011. The scientist primarily studied their dam building routine. Inside the dams, researchers found soil runoff from near by agriculture which contained nitrogen and phosphorus. Agricultural runoff is a concern for wildlife since new pollutants damage all aspects of the ecosystem. The beavers were able to trap the soil in their dam creating less pollutant exposure in the surrounding water. The dams also created more ponds in the ecosystem and increased vegetation.

Research will continue to see if the pollutants can be completely removed from the water.

For more information, visit iowa-environmental-focus-dot-org.

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

Antarctica is melting, and its worse than we thought

Antarctica has lost 3 trillion tons of ice since 1992, according to a new study. (Tak/flickr)

Katelyn Weisbrod | June 15, 2018

A new report found Antarctic ice is melting at an astoundingly higher rate than scientist thought.

The study published in Nature found that from 1992 to 2017, about 3 trillion tons of ice melted from Antarctica, increasing sea levels by about 7.6 millimeters around the world. Although it does not sound like much, a disproportionate amount of that rise was in the last five years. If sea level rise continues to accelerate, levels could be over three feet higher by 2100.

The Antarctic ice sheet, the study said, is an important indicator of global climate change. Rising sea levels is one of the main consequences of climate change, as it will increase flooding in coastal cities, especially during storms like hurricanes.

“This is the most authoritative and comprehensive treatment to date and should further reassure the public and policymakers that the science is solid, while perhaps making people more broadly less assured because the small warming and other climate changes to date have already triggered mass loss,” climate scientist Richard Alley of Penn State University told Axios in an email.