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


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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.

Transcript:

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.

Coastal homes are threatened by sea level rise


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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.

 

On the Radio- Beavers may help to reduce pollution


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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.

Transcript:

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.

The impact of climate change on food yield and nutrition


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Leafy greens can provide calcium, magnesium, and potassium. (ccharmon/flickr)

Eden DeWald | June 13th, 2018

A new study, conducted by a team from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, studies the effect that consequences of climate change will have on the yield and nutritional content of vegetables and legumes. The environmental changes analyzed in the study include any change found in ambient temperature, salinity, water availability, and concentration of carbon dioxide and ozone in the atmosphere. The study complied information from 174 published papers, which utilized a total of 1,540 studies, and conclusions based on the information which encompassed data from 40 different counties.

Variations of each environmental factor analyzed changed prospective vegetable and legume yields in different ways. For example, an increase in carbon dioxide levels was found to increase the mean yields overall, whereas an increase in tropospheric ozone concentration was found to decrease mean yields overall. However, an increase in carbon dioxide was the only factor studied that would produced an increase in mean yields, and all others were found to incur a decrease in average yields. The study could not make an overall comment about a change in food nutrition, but two papers that were analyzed found that an increase in carbon dioxide and ozone resulted significantly  decreased nutrient concentrations within root vegetables.

Vegetables and legumes provide many vital nutrients such as potassium, vitamin C, folate, and dietary fiber. They are cost effective diet staples for many people around the world. A decrease in means yields could negatively affect public health, decrease agriculture revenues, and make living a healthy life style even more expensive.

 

On the Radio- The reduced carbon impact of electric buses


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An English electric bus service makes a stop (Paul R/flickr)

Eden DeWald | June 11, 2018

This week’s segment discusses the findings of a new study about the reduced carbon impact of electric buses.

Transcript:

A new study describes the health and economic benefits of electric school buses.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The Environment America Research and Policy Center recently released a study that describes the advantages of swapping America’s school buses for cleaner electric ones. The center estimates that the switch could reduce pollutants by about 5.3 million tons annually, which is the equivalent of taking one million cars off of the road.

Ninety-five percent of school buses run on diesel fuel. Inhaling diesel exhaust can cause respiratory diseases and worsen existing conditions such as asthma. School children that ride on school buses are especially vulnerable to inhaling in high concentrations of toxic diesel fumes.  

While replacing 480,000 school buses nationwide is a daunting task, the move would actually save states and local school districts money, as each electric bus costs roughly $6,400 less per year to operate.

The study outlines possible financial resources for states to use for the transition, including federal grants and utility investments.

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

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

May 2018 is the warmest on record


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NOAA details notable climate events for May 2018 (NOAA)

Eden DeWald | June 6th, 2018

May 2018 is the warmest month of May ever recorded in the United States according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It broke the long held record, which was set back in 1934, during the Dust Bowl. The average temperature recorded in May 2018 was 65.4 degrees, compared to the 64.7 degree average from May 1934.

However, temperatures didn’t just increase on the average, 8,590 daily record breaking highs were set across the United States. Including a notable 100 degree temperature spike for Minneapolis on May 28th, which is the earliest date that a triple digit temperate has been reached for Minneapolis.

Precipitation records for May 2018 also paint a curious picture. The May 2018 average precipitation of 2.97 inches is slightly above the general May average of 2.91 inches. However, more than one-fourth of the United States landmass were under drought conditions. Some areas even experienced record breaking precipitation, such as Florida and Maryland. This data aligns with recent information from NASA, which foresees wet areas getting wetter and dry areas becoming drier due to a combination of human impact, natural water cycles, and climate change.

 

 

On the Radio- Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano


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The United States Geological Survey captures activity in a lava lake created by Kilauea (USGS/flickr)

Eden DeWald| June 4, 2018

This weeks segment discusses the recent surge in activity from the Kilauea Volcano.

Transcript:

Kilauea is currently the world’s most active volcano.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The Kilauea Volcano is located on the big island of Hawaii. It takes up 14% of the land and is said to house the Hawaiian volcano goddess, Pele. The oldest eruptions date back to two-thousand-eight- hundred years go. Kilauea was one of the first volcanoes studied by the Hawaiian Volcano Research Association in 1909.  

On May 3rd, 2018 the volcano erupted again after a five-point-zero earth quake hit the island. Thanks to attentive research and observation the eruption had been suspected and the area was already closed off to the public. The eruption still spewed lava into the residential areas of the Puna district.

The eruption itself did not cause any immediate injury to the locals but hundreds of homes were destroyed. Long lasting effects like smog inhalation and potential mud slides and avalanches will continue to affect the area.

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

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