Common Crops Around the World are Being Impacted by Climate Change

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Josie Taylor | January 27, 2022

Climate change is hurting many crops, including some people’s favorite food. Research has shown for a long time that coffee is the most susceptible crop to climate change. A new study found that avocados and cashews are also being impacted by rising temperatures. 

In some of the countries that currently are reliant on cashews as a key cash crop the news is harmful. India loses significant areas of suitability, while Benin loses half its suitable areas under the lowest modeled increase in temperature. These countries’ economies rely on this crop. 

For avocados, the picture is complicated, especially in the biggest producing countries. Mexico, the world’s largest producer, sees a major increase in suitable lands, up over 80%. However, Peru, another major grower, loses around half its suitable areas under the same climate model.

While the rise in temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns might make some areas more suitable, the researchers are concerned that a major shift to develop these crops in new regions might see more forests converted to farmland or a rise of invasive species.

Although this study focused on coffee, cashews and avocados, climate change is impacting all farmers. Climate change is causing both extreme drought and extreme precipitation. Both of those have great impact on growing crops.

Gov. Reynolds proposal would make 15 percent ethanol dominant fuel in Iowa

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Eleanor Hildebrandt | January 26, 2022

A new bill proposed by Gov. Kim Reynolds could make fuel that contains 15 percent ethanol fuel the dominant fuel in Iowa in the next four years.

The bill was filed on Monday following a similar proposal did not pass in Iowa during the last session. The current legislation would require all gas stations in the state to sell the E-15 fuel at at least half their pumps. If passed, the bill would give Iowans more options when filling their vehicles with gas anywhere in the state. At a Iowa House subcommittee, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Lobbyist Sarah Allen supported the legislation.

“We think it gives consumers the ability to purchase E-15 more freely across the state, because that’s not happening right now,” she said.

At the meeting, State Policy Adviser for the Iowa Farm Bureau Kevin Kuhle said Iowa is currently lagging behind in ethanol consumption, regardless of the state being the leader in ethanol and biodiesel production. The bill advanced out of the subcommittee on Tuesday according to Iowa Public Radio. The legislation does provide exceptions for fueling stations featuring older tanks and pipes that are incompatible with ethanol fuels. It provides up to $50,000 from the state to update such stations.

Gasoline fuel blends with 10 percent of ethanol, known at E10, are one of the most widely sold fuels, according to Iowa Capital Dispatch. Most gas pumps have an E10 option in Iowa currently. The switch to E15 if the legislation is passed could increase the demand for the fuel by 61 million gallons of ethanol. It could generate up to $72 million in new income for biofuels and agriculture companies.

Parts of the U.S. are seeing a rise in hazardous air quality

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Elyse Gabor | January 24, 2021

Climate change is causing the rise of two air pollutants in the Western U.S. Air quality in the environment had improved due to the Clean Air Act of 1970, but within the last 20 years, we have seen the air become polluted again due to hot weather.

People in the Western U.S. face health risks due to the hot weather. The heat is causing the number of wildfires to grow and increasing dangerous amounts of ground-level ozone and pollution called PM 2.5. This pollution enters your lungs, causing severe and potentially fatal health issues such as lung and respiratory problems.

These wildfires can also cause harm to people who live thousands of miles away from the affected areas. The smoke produced by the fires can travel quickly to other states and regions, making the air quality unsafe.

Climate scientist at UCLA Daniel Swain said even if regulations and extreme measures are taken, air quality conditions are still likely to worsen in the upcoming years. However, cities and towns can take steps to reduce the number of emissions during times of dangerous air quality.

Artificial Snow Heightens Risks For Skiers

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Simone Garza | January 13, 2022

As climate change increases, athletes encounter safety concerns when skiing. With differences between Alpine and Nordic skiing, challenges arise from artificial snow. Artificial snow is used for outdoor winter sports due to limited snowfall.

With lessening snowfall, artificial snow that is used for racing tends to be more dangerous for athletes. The artificial snow is known to have an increase in moisture content. Skiers claim that man made snow can quickly turn into ice. The artificial snow also has increased the number of falls when racing. Interacting with the artificial snow makes skiers race faster than usual. 

The process of creating the man-made snow is done by water that is blown through nozzles in order to break down the water to small droplets which then freeze up. The larger density and water content of the artificial snow. 

With smaller amounts of natural snowfall, race courses have also shortened. Another factor to consider is the prediction of avalanches. Due to climate change, severity of dryness and heat accumulate wildfires that also trigger avalanche hazards. Climate change has also put a strain on traveling through uncontrolled terrain in growing a section during colder seasons with the decrease of natural snow.

Due to warmer climate, the prediction of shorter snowfall will likely double by the year of 2050. 

The International Ski Federation, keeps track of global reports of injuries such as snow boarding, ski jumping, Alpine skiing and freestyle skiing. The organization has declined to give information on reports made at this time.

MidAmerican Energy proposes $3.9 billion renewable energy project

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Eleanor Hildebrandt | January 21, 2022

MidAmerican Energy unveiled a $3.9 billion renewable energy project this week, announcing plans to explore new technologies to decrease the company’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The energy company filed the proposed project with the Iowa Utilities Board on Wednesday. The “Wind Prime” plan would add 50 megawatts of solar generation and 2,042 megawatts of wind generation in Iowa. The plan would push forward renewable energy goals for the company. According to the Corridor Business Journal, MidAmerican Energy has invested nearly $14 billion in renewable energy projects across the state.

President and CEO of MidAmerican Kelcey Brown said in a press release that the company is working toward delivering 100 percent renewable energy to its customers.

“We are also preparing to meet an important milestone of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions,” Brown said. “The ‘Wind PRIME’ project will position us and our customers for a sustainable future, while ensuring we continue to deliver affordable and reliable energy.”

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds supported the plan in the company’s press release. She said MidAmerican is a part of why Iowa is a renewable energy leader. The plan includes funding to examine new clean energy technologies in Iowa alongside wind and solar energy generation. “Wind PRIME” will strive to reduce carbon emissions. MidAmerican hopes the $3.9 billion project will allow the company to hit net zero for its greenhouse gas emissions. If the Iowa Utilities Board votes in favor of the project, the company plans to complete construction on its projects in under three years.

Energy Regulators Support Federal Pipeline Standards

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Josie Taylor | January 20, 2022

The chairman of the federal commission overseeing energy and some U.S. House Democrats said that federal powers are needed to prevent major energy disruptions like the cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline that left the East Coast short of gas at the pumps for days in May. 

A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee discussed a proposal by Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., that would give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the power to impose basic standards for natural gas pipeline reliability and security. As of right now, standards like that do not exist. FERC can enforce reliability standards regarding electricity delivery and other matters, but lacks such authorities when it comes to regulating pipelines.

Members of the House panel aimed to address a joint report from FERC and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation following a devastating Texas winter storm in 2021 that also showed how pipelines can fail. The report recommended a single federal agency be responsible for ensuring pipeline reliability.

“Lack of mandatory reliability standards, especially for natural gas pipelines, poses a risk to the reliability of the bulk power system to the interdependency of our nation’s gas electric infrastructure,” FERC Chairman Richard Glick told the panel. Standards and regulation could potentially help many Americans.

U.S. greenhouse gas emissions up in 2021

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Eleanor Hildebrandt | January 19, 2021

Greenhouse gas emissions rose more than six percent in 2021 after a nearly 10 percent drop in 2020.

Emissions rose as the economy began bouncing back from the initial economic decline from the COVID-19 pandemic hitting the U.S. As in-person work returned, in several sectors, coal plants came back. Estimates published in early January by the Rhodium Group, the emissions remain five percent below 2019 levels regardless of the increase. The 10 percent drop in 2020 was the biggest plummet on record, according to the New York Times.

Coal, the fossil fuel that pollutes the most, made a strong comeback in 2021. Last year there was 17 percent rise in emissions from coal-fired power plants. In 2020, there was a 19 percent decline.

President Joe Biden has set a goal of decreasing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent below 2005 levels in the next eight years. The goal matches what most climate scientists say is needed to keep the Earth from warming more than 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit and minimizing catastrophic climate events. As of the newest report, the U.S.’s emissions are 17.4 percent below 2005 levels.

Other reports, however, suggest the Biden administration’s efforts will not be met. The World Resources Institute reported in December 2021that the world must reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions to be successful in climate cooling goals. WRI’s findings show the Biden administration’s goals are not enough.

Traces of ‘Forever Chemicals’ detected in Sioux City drinking water

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Elyse Gabor | January 18, 2022

“Forever chemicals” were found in Sioux City’s drinking water. The Iowa Air National Guard base is a possible source of the contamination.

The Iowa DNR tested a well in Sioux City and found the two PFAS in December. The cancer-causing chemicals perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl, also referred to as PFAS, can be found in many household items. These items include non-stick cooking utensils, firefighting foams, and more.

The well is located around a mile and a half west of the base. Utility director for Sioux City Brad Puetz is confident that the firefighting foam used at the airbase is the cause of the chemicals.

A higher concentration of PFAS were found in one treatment plant than in untreated water. The city has two treatment plants, with the Southbridge Regional Water Treatment Plant holding a quarter of the city’s water. This plant blends with the other plant’s treated water. PFAS were not detected in the other plants’ water. To track the contamination rate, the city is testing the drinking water every few months.

Sioux City was one town tested in the DNR’s statewide water sampling. PFAS were found in cities like Ames and West Des Moines.

Argentina Sees Record Breaking Heat Waves Last Week

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Josie Taylor | January 17, 2022

Ground breaking temperatures are hitting Argentina as they experience an unprecedented heat wave. Ground temperatures got above 129 degrees Fahrenheit (54 degrees Celsius). This heat caused widespread blackouts. 

The air temperatures, although cooler, are still suffocating in many areas. Temperatures rose to 106.7 degrees Fahrenheit (41.5 degrees Celsius) in Buenos Aires, the second-highest reading in the city in more than 100 years of records. Other parts of the country saw temperatures as high as 113 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat was so severe in Argentina on Tuesday that it was briefly the hottest place in the world, surpassing parts of Australia. 

Infrastructure is not being able to protect people in Argentina as temperatures surge. Around 700,000 people were without power for hours on Tuesday afternoon. The city’s electric providers blamed increased demand from cooling during the heatwave. The agency that provides drinking water also asked residents to take conservation measures, saying that its purification system was affected during the outage.

Climate change is a key ingredient in these severe heat waves. The planet has warmed roughly 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) since the world began burning fossil fuels. That seeming small rise has majorly shifted the odds toward more extreme heat.

‘Forever chemicals’ found in Ames drinking water

Graphic via the Iowa DNR.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | January 14, 2022

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources found PFAS in Ames drinking water.

The city is Iowa’s ninth-biggest city had concentrations of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) in its water, detected at 3.1 and 6.5 parts per trillion. The Iowa DNR wants Ames to test the drinking water quarterly because the concentrations were found in water already cleaned by the city’s water utility service.

The chemicals were also found in wells within city limits. One well that tested positive is the site of firefighter trainings. Firefighter foam is one of the most common materials with PFAS in it.

Iowa Capital Dispatch reported Rock Valley, an Iowa town of 4,000 people, also tested positive for PFAS. Wells in the city also tested positive. All of the PFAS levels in the two towns are below federal standards, but the Iowa DNR is planning on having the cities continue testing the water. West Des Moines water also previously tested positive for the chemicals.

The Iowa DNR has released less than half its water quality tests for the state. Supervisor of the DNR’s water quality bureau Roger Bruner previously said testing is underway for cities in Iowa. He said results will be posted as the department receives them.