Cedar Rapids will Unveil a New Climate Action Plan


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | September 20, 2021

The city of Cedar Rapids is hosting an event Tuesday to unveil a community climate action plan. City staff, Community Climate Advisory Committee members and community organizations who are seen as leaders in sustainability will attend the event, according to the city. 

The plan, which will be unveiled at Cedar Rapids Public Library, aims to lead the city toward reducing carbon emissions. They will begin transitioning to mostly or entirely renewable energy by 2050, and the city hopes this will better the health of the residences as well. 

The Community Climate Advisory Committee and city staff worked with Cedar Rapids to center equity in drafting the plan. They did this through its survey outreach and in-person meetings to address and understand how climate change disproportionately burdens some residents based on their socioeconomic status, access to transportation and language barriers.

The plan will set strategies such as funding, partnerships and programs in order to reach long-term climate goals. 

The council will consider approving the draft plan and making it final at its Sept. 28 meeting.

Iowa City Roots for Trees program looks to plant more trees


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | September 17, 2021

After a successful first year, the Iowa City Parks and Recreation department’s Root for Trees program opened this week with the goal of planting more trees than ever before.

The Root for Trees Discount Program started as a part of the City’s Climate Action Plan. The project started with the goal to expand the Iowa City’s tree canopy and diversity. The program broke records last year by planting 400 trees.

The program began again on September 15 and runs until May 2022. To participate, Iowa City residents can redeem vouchers to use at a local tree nursery at a reduced cost. The vouchers work on 19 different types of trees. Once the tree is planted on the voucher user’s property, they are responsible for the care and maintenance of the tree. The voucher cuts the cost of purchasing a tree significantly. Since the voucher is based on income, residents will receive from 50 to 90 percent off at $250 tree.

According to The Daily Iowan, 360 vouchers were redeemed last year. Program facilitators are looking to have even more success in 2021. Applications to obtain a voucher are currently open to residents currently. The City of Iowa City’s Parks and Recreation department also has a guide where voucher users can learn what type of tree is best for their property prior to purchasing and planting.

Climate Change is a Human Rights Issue, UN Rights Chief Warns.


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | September 16, 2021

UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet warned the UN of what she called the biggest challenge to human rights- climate change. She said on Monday climate change, pollution, and nature loss are severely affecting human rights, while countries across the globe fail to take the necessary action. 

“As these environmental threats intensify, they will constitute the single greatest challenge to human rights of our era,” Bachelet said at the 48th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The UN has many goals they hope to reach by 2030. These goals include ending poverty, ending hunger, access to clean water worldwide and more. All of these issues are directly impacted by climate change. 

Bachelet said that climate change is putting people in extremely vulnerable situations, and it is “murdering” people. Not only are people dying directly from climate disasters, they are hungry from droughts and homeless from fires. All of these should be considered human rights violations, according to Bachelet.

Iowa Lost Over 7 Million Trees in the Derecho, DNR Says


Derecho Damage in Ames, IA

Josie Taylor | September 15, 2021

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has reported that last summer’s derecho cost Iowa 7.2 million trees as wind gusts got up to 140 miles per hour in some counties. The cities that lost the most were Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and Davenport. 

Iowa cities lost 4.5 million trees, and rural Iowa lost 2.7 million trees. 13 percent of all urban trees were lost to the derecho. Cedar Rapids, however, lost 70 percent of their urban trees as they lost 953,224 trees alone. Iowa City and Johnson County lost 234,567 trees. 

The lack of trees in Iowa will ultimately contribute to climate change since trees capture carbon, reduce air pollution, provide natural shade and provide windbreaks. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration called the derecho “the costliest thunderstorm in U.S. history. The state sustained $11 billion in damages and Iowan families have filed for $3 billion, according to the Iowa Insurance Division. 

Reconciliation bill focuses on enhancing research, fighting climate change in agriculture section


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | September 14, 2021

The U.S. House Agriculture Committee is planning to use a section of the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill to fund investments in urban agriculture and boosting the department’s programs to address climate change.

The bill sets aside $66 billion for agricultural measures, according to Iowa Capital Dispatch. This funding also plans to provide funding for historically Black land grant colleges. The focus on climate change prevention intends to look at threats in farming and continue to work on decreasing environmental harms from agricultural practices.

$7 billion was set aside by the committee to fund general research and education programs regarding the advancement of agricultural and food systems in the United States.

Outside of agriculture funding, the package could provide $40 billion to help combat forest fires on public and private land if passed. Currently, wildfires in California are raging on and threatening various species in the state’s forests.

U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, who represents Iowa’s 3rd district, also worked on inserting a provision in the reconciliation package to focus on biofuel expansions. The current investment is $1 billion.

Bill in Congress has Four Important Climate Aspects


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | September 13, 2021

The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee approved its first piece of Democrats’ sweeping $3.5 trillion spending blueprint on a party-line 24-13 vote last week. Among the highest priorities for President Joe Biden in the plan was addressing climate change. 

The climate items are key for progressives in the House, dozens of whom have pledged not to support the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill unless a more robust climate bill also passes. 

One of the massive climate bills is the Natural Resources bill. This would make changes to oil and gas that climate activists have been advocating for. For example, this would raise rates on oil and gas developers operating on public lands and waters. 

The bill would also direct the Interior Department to hold lease sales for offshore windmills in U.S. territories.

$9.5 trillion would be used for Great Lakes restoration and coastal resilience. The projects would aim to increase protection from sea-level rise, flooding and storms, while also adding carbon sinks like seagrass.

The last climate aspect of the bill would be putting $3.5 billion towards climate jobs programs. Of this money, $3 billion would be for the creation of a Civilian Climate Corps and $500 million for a program focused only on tribal lands.

Cryptocurrencies found to use more electricity than individual states, countries


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | September 10, 2021

The cryptocurrency Bitcoin currently uses more energy than countries like Finland, which has a population of 5.5 million.

Bitcoin was invented back in 2009, and 12 years later, one would need a room full of specialized machines to mine a single Bitcoin. The process of mining one takes up 9 years’ worth of a typical U.S. household’s electricity bill. According to a New York Times article, this currency’s network uses the same amount of electricity as the state of Washington. The state has 7.6 million residents. In comparison to the search engine Google, Bitcoin uses seven times as much electricity. Google has several locations across the globe.

While all cryptocurrencies are strictly digital and exist only electronically, Bitcoin is adding to the climate crisis by using power grids and fossil fuels and contributing to harmful emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that nearly all pieces of an electricity system can affect the environment through greenhouse gas emissions and using up water resources to cool down systems and produce steam.

Since cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are inefficient in transactions, they are also inefficient when it comes to the use of electricity. Bitcoin’s energy consumption fluctuates frequently, as its price ebbs and flows. Regardless of the cost of the currency, Bitcoin continues to contribute to excessive energy usage.

US House Looks to Include $1 Billion for Biofuels in Budget


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | September 9, 2021

The U.S. House will include $1 billion in biofuels funding in its initial draft of the budget bill, according to U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne.

The proposed funding is part of a $3.5 trillion bill currently working through The House. If passed, $1 billion would go to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to be used as grants to expand and upgrade biofuel infrastructure and to increase the usage of higher ethanol and diesel blends.

“To fight climate change, we can’t just keep arguing over what one policy is best to cut emissions. We need to use every tool in our toolbelt — both renewables and electric — to meet the challenge we’re facing,” Axne said. 

President Joe Biden has set an agenda centered primarily around electric vehicles, including a goal that half of all new cars in 2030 be electric. Iowa’s representatives have pushed back against those goals, arguing that biofuels are a near-term solution for cleaner energy. Iowa is the nation’s top producer of ethanol.

Over the next month, House and Senate Republicans will work on an agreement for this bill, however this is not a bipartisan bill. Representative Axne has said that she will not make her decision about supporting the bill until after negotiations end. 

Biden aims to raise solar energy production from 4 to 45%


Via Flickr

Elizabeth Miglin | September 8, 2021

The Biden administration announced plans to produce half of the nation’s electricity through solar power by 2050, on Wednesday. 

Last year, solar energy provided less than 4 percent of the country’s electricity, now the administration aims to raise production to 45 percent. A new report by the Department of Energy argues the U.S. must quadruple annual solar installations by 2025 in order to reach the administrations’ goal of decarbonizing the power sector. 

Pressure to expedite the transition off of fossil fuels has increased due to recent natural disasters across the country, including Hurricane Ida in New Jeresy and New York, which have highlighted weaknesses in the current energy system. 

With the cost of solar panels dropping over the last decade, solar has become one of the cheapest sources of energy for much of the U.S. The reduced costs has boosted the solar and wind energy market where growth has exceeded government and independent analysts predictions. In culmination, a U.S. Energy Information Administration report projects renewable energy sources will share 42% of the U.S. electricity mix by 2050 at our current growth rate. 

Additionally, the administration hopes to reduce net emission from the power sector to zero by 2035, add hundreds of offshore wind turbines and ensure half of all new cars sold are electric by 2030. 

Air quality, climate bulletin highlights quality patterns, shifts


Screenshot from YouTube.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | September 7, 2021

The World Meteorological Organization published its first Air Quality and Climate Bulletin on Sept. 3, discussing where air patterns are improving and deteriorating across the globe.

The report discusses the strong connection air quality and climate change have because of the chemical species that impact both. One of the similarities is the affect the combustion of fossil fuels has on air’s breathability and on global warming. A large problem when it comes to air quality is wildfires, according to the bulletin. The report said the fire seasons expose people to “varying levels of pollutants” alongside putting millions of people at high or very high health risks as a result of being downwind from wildfires.

Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research co-director Greg Carmichael assisted in the creation of the organization’s bulletin. He serves on the editorial board for the bulletin and chairs the Environmental Pollution and Atmospheric Chemistry Scientific Steering Committee of the World Meteorological Organization, the group that inspired the report.

Iowa saw poor air quality this summer because of the wildfires in Western states. In late June, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources issued air quality alerts due to winds from the West Coast changing the air quality in some Midwestern states. The alert specifically focused on warning sensitive groups to limit their outdoor exertion within the state. According to the Des Moines Register, these alerts also signaled several towns in the state having “unhealthy” air based on the Air Quality Index. Poor air quality returned later in the summer to Iowa, as residents saw more alerts in August.

The bulletin by the World Meteorological Organization included a section on how COVID-19 and air quality have impacted one another — something that has worried some health officials in Iowa. During various lockdowns of differing degrees, international emissions of air pollutants fell drastically, improving air quality across the world. The report showed nitrogen dioxide emissions dropped nearly 70 percent as a result of COVID-19.

The World Meteorological Organization intends to continue putting out bulletins with more air quality information in the future.