UN report: World Could Run on 80 Percent Renewable Energy by 2050

A portion of the World's largest windfarm. 259 wind turbines over 200 feet tall located in Cherokee and Buena Vista Counties in Northwest Iowa. Together they produce 192,750 kW of energy. Photo by Jim Hammer, Wikimedia Commons.

But Governments Must First Pursue Appropriate Policies, Report Says

UN News Service

Renewable energy sources such as solar power, wind, biomass and hydropower could meet nearly 80 percent of the world’s energy supplies by 2050 if governments pursue policies that harness their potential, a United Nations-backed report released Monday says.

The findings of more than 120 researchers working with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicate that if the path of renewable source is fully followed, greenhouse gas emissions could stay low enough to keep the rise in global temperatures by the middle of the century to below 2 degrees. Continue reading

EPA Calls for More Testing at Alliant’s Coal Ash Ponds in Burlington

Can about 68 acres of coal ash ponds in Burlington withstand an earthquake? To find out, the EPA has required Alliant Energy to do more testing of their supporting walls, according to a statement from the agency.

The EPA does not believe the area to be dangerous, but it has exercised extreme caution on coal ash sites since December 2008, when a retaining wall gave way at a Tennessee Valley Authority plant, burying homes under six feet of sludge spread over 400 acres.

As of April 2011, EPA has conducted structural integrity assessments for 381 coal ash impoundments at 152 coal-fired power plants.

On the Radio: Using Geothermal Energy, West Union Colors Historic Downtown Green

In 2008 West Union was designated a Green Pilot Program by the Iowa Department of Economic Development. Beyond its move to sustainable energy sources, the city has also made streets and sidewalks more pedestrian friendly. Credit: West Union Chamber of Commerce.

 Note: The text in this post has been updated to reflect that West Union has not yet begun to use its district geothermal energy system, but it plans to soon. The audio clip, however, has not been updated. Language in the original post implied that the project had already begun. Construction on the system began last month, according to Robin Bostrom, Executive Director, West Union Chamber of Commerce.

The mistake stemmed from a misinterpretation of language in the report appended below. IEF regrets the error. 

Listen to this week’s radio segment, which details West Union – a 2008 Green Pilot Program – is saving energy while preserving its history. And read about the rest of West Union’s green visionContinue reading

Study Links Climate Change to Lower Crop yields, Higher Food Prices

Due partly to lower crop yields brought by climate change, food prices have risen by 71 percent over the past year.Photo by MarS, Flickr.

Climate change has stymied crop yields, contributing to skyrocketing food prices, according to a new study published by the journal Science.

The Des Moines Register reports:

While U.S. farmers have enjoyed a relatively favorable climate, yield gains in other regions over the past three decades have been partially offset by temperature increases…

While corn yields increased worldwide between 1980 and 2008, they would have been 3.8 percent higher if not for higher temperatures, the study said. The climate changes also reduced gains in wheat yields, the scientists said.

The findings are consistent with those of Iowa’s Climate Change Impacts Committee, which issued a report to the governor in January. Continue reading

UI students help Iowa communities reach sustainability goals

A group of University of Iowa students is helping Iowa communities turn greener.

Through the Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities program, second-year students at the UI School of Urban and Regional Planning are serving as unpaid professional consultants in Iowa towns.

The UI Spectator reports:  Continue reading

To limit erosion, some researchers hope to develop perennial crops

Credit: USDA

But research could take decades, as funding remains low

As winds and heavy rains are sweeping away Iowa’s soil at record rates, some researchers are looking to develop crops that will keep more soil on the ground.

Small amounts of federal money – too little, according to agronomists – have gone towards research of perennial versions of corn, rice, wheat and other crops that don’t need to be planted every year. This would make for less plowing and therefore, less erosion on Iowa cropland, among other environmental perks. Continue reading

Environlinks – EPA, Energy and Climate Change

A look at environmental headlines from around the country

Cedar Rapids Gazette (Capitol News Connection): The road to a new nuclear plant in Iowa will be long and expensive.

Politico: In an effort to repair the EPA’s image in farm states, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is hitting the road and the airwaves. (Here’s an Iowa-specific example of that campaign.).

Grist: David Roberts spells out a four-step solution to climate change.

Solve Climate News: Concerned about supply limitations, the Department of Energy is funding efforts to produce green technologies that don’t rely on rare earth elements.

USA Today: People are using less energy in the U.S., food companies falling, but food companies are using more as they try to produce more food for more people.

EPA, NOAA: May 2-May 6 is “Air Quality Awareness Week”

Credit: Señor Codo, Flickr

The EPA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have dedicated this week to air quality awareness.

This comes on the heels of a year in which Iowa exceeded federal air quality standards at a record clip due to stricter criteria. Iowa’s violations more than doubled between 2009 and 2010, as IEF reported in January and the Des Moines Register reported on Saturday. Continue reading

On the Radio: Keeping your car and local waters clean

Photo by Dimitri dF, Flickr

Listen to this week’s radio segment. It details how you can limit local water pollution while you enjoy a warm weather ritual: car washing. And, for more information, see this EPA brochure. Continue reading

Report: Quad Cities area ranks near last nationally in short-term particle pollution

Credit: Señor Codo, Flickr

Air quality varies across the rest of Iowa, according to American Lung Association report 

Quad Cities residents can’t quite breathe easy.

That’s because their region ranks 25th in short-term particle pollution – a phenomenon, which increases their risk of heart attacks, strokes, asthma attacks and possible early death, according to a new report by the American Lung Association.

Quad Citians join nearly 61 million people across the US, who live in areas prone to unhealthy spikes in particle pollution. Continue reading