Julia Poska | October 12, 2018
The UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research had a big day yesterday; we released the 2018 Iowa Climate Statement at the Cedar Rapids Public Library for the press and public. Today we can reflect on the magnitude of the statement’s message.
Titled “Designing Buildings and Communities for Iowa’s Future Climate,” the statement warns of the urgent need to adapt buildings and public infrastructure to withstand the extreme weather of tomorrow. Scientists predict that average annual heat waves will increase by 7ºF and the most extreme rainfall events will double in intensity by midcentury.
“These are really scary numbers which will have negative consequences for the elderly, the economy, for corn and soybeans, as well as beef, hogs and poultry even under sheltered confinement,” said Jerry Schnoor, co-director of CGRER. “We must start now to adapt our built environment, including buildings and flood mitigation systems, to this changing climate.”
Schnoor presented the statement yesterday with Associate Professor of Architecture Ulrike Passe, director of Iowa State University’s Center for Building Energy Research.
“Water will also enter buildings from the foundation or basement walls,” Passe said. “In particular, heavier rain events and higher water tables affect foundations, and standards going forward must reflect that.”
She provided examples of several adaptations that can be made to buildings to prepare them for increased heat and precipitation, including steeper roof slopes, increased insulation and better ventilation. She said Iowan communities should consider managing increased rainwater runoff with green, vegetation-based infrastructure like rain gardens and urban forestry as well.
These adjustments need to be made as soon as possible; Iowa’s weather is already feeling the effects of climate change.
“Warming over the Gulf of Mexico is helping feed large rain events in Iowa and the Midwest,” Schnoor said. “That’s why we’re prone to intense downpours and major flooding like Des Moines saw on June 30 and like eastern Iowa has been experiencing for the past six weeks. People’s homes and businesses are being flooded that have never been flooded before.”
Burning less fossil fuel and reducing atmospheric carbon emissions can help mitigate climate change’s impacts as well, but at this stage, adaptation is absolutely crucial. We at CGRER hope those with decision-making power take the statement to heart, and listen to the record 201 science faculty and researchers from 37 Iowa colleges and universities who endorsed it.