Polk County is Meeting to Discuss Future Outdoor Public Spaces


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Josie Taylor | October 21, 2021

Today there will be a town hall style meeting for Polk County’s upcoming $65 million bond referendum to fund water, parks and trails projects.

The Polk County Water & Land Legacy Bond needs support from at least 60% of voters in the Nov. 2 referendum to pass. A similar measure in 2012 got 72% approval among voters, and a survey this spring of likely voters suggested similar support this year, said Rich Leopold, the county’s conservation director.

The average Polk County property owner will pay an estimated $11 per year if the referendum succeeds.

This referendum is focused completely on public outdoor spaces. 

It’s anticipated that up to $15 million of the new referendum money would help pay for projects prioritized by the Iowa Confluence Water Trails group, which is led by local elected officials, business leaders and others. The group wants to improve several creeks and rivers to better accommodate canoeing, kayaking and tubing to encourage recreational tourism.

Some of the money will also fund a new campground and other improvements to Sleepy Hollow Sports Park, which the county bought this year.

Climate Change is Negatively Affecting the Colorado River


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Josie Taylor | October 18, 2021

States in the Colorado River basin, along with tribal leaders told a congressional panel Friday that states in the Colorado River Basin are adjusting to the reality that their rights outstrip the available water by nearly one-third. Climate change will likely make this situation worse as time goes on.

Representatives from the seven Western states — Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, California, Utah and Wyoming — that depend on the river for drinking water and irrigation said at a U.S. House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing that they are preparing for a future where the river and their needs and legal entitelments do not match. 

State officials and lawmakers emphasized how serious the situation was, but did offer many solutions beyond general appeals to conservation and collaboration.

States and tribes in the basin are legally entitled to 15 million acre-feet of water per year, with another 1.5 million going to Mexico, but only about 12.4 million has flowed in an average year over the last two decades.

The deficit is the result of a years-long drought that was tied to climate change, U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman, a California Democrat who chairs the House Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife, and others said.

Climate Change is Hurting Even the Ocean’s Smallest Creatures


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Josie Taylor | October 14, 2021

Nearly everything in the world will be affected by climate change. New research proves that more every day. People, animals, land and water are all hurting and on the track to hurt more if climate change continues at its current pace.

A study by an international group of researchers shows that interaction between communities of plankton – microorganisms in the ocean– will be affected by climate change in different ways depending on location. Although the effects will be different, they will all be harmful. 

Computer simulations suggested that plankton communities at the poles will be badly damaged by the rise in temperature, while in temperate zones they will suffer from a reduced flow of nutrients and in the tropics from increased salinity. Both effects will lead to harm in the plankton community. Since plankton is a microscopic organism in the ocean, it can be hard to see how this is important. However, plankton supply most of the planet’s oxygen. Their harm is everyone’s harm, especially the ocean’s. 

The findings, published in the journal Science Advances, resulted from mathematical modeling based on the largest-ever inventory of marine plankton making it extremely trustworthy and important. Although this study started in 2009, results have been published more recently.

Iowa Climate Statement 2021: Strengthening Iowa’s Electric Infrastructure


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Josie Taylor | October 13, 2021

Since 2011, researchers and educators at nearly every college and university in Iowa have produced annual statements to communicate in plain language the state of climate science and the impacts of climate change on Iowans. Today, the Climate Statement for 2021 was released. This year’s focus is on Iowa’s Electric Infrastructure.

Last year’s August derecho, the most destructive thunderstorm in US history, knocked out power to more than 500,000 Iowa households for as much as two weeks. “The loss of power left people in the dark without air conditioning, refrigeration, access to food, phone chargers and life sustaining medical equipment,” said Dave Courard-Hauri, Chair of Environmental Science and Sustainability Program, Drake University. “This was a potentially deadly combination for many vulnerable and low income Iowans.”

“Iowa’s power outages from the 2020 derecho resulted from extreme damage to transmission and distribution systems,” said Jim McCalley, Anson Marston Distinguished Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Iowa State University.

Climate disasters are not over. To prepare for future Iowa extreme weather events, it is recommended that industry, policy makers and stakeholders identify ways to strengthen Iowa’s electric infrastructure, protect vulnerable people, and consider enhanced risks from climate change while managing costs. Climate change is here. We need a resilient electric infrastructure as we curtail carbon emissions for a more sustainable future.

Revisiting Iowa Climate Statements: Impacts on the Health of Iowans


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Josie Taylor | October 11, 2021

In 2014, Iowans were seeing the real effects that come with climate change. Heavy rainfall, floods and a longer growing season were some of the impacts. The biggest impact, however, was the health effects of climate change. 

Repeated heavy rain events caused increased exposures to toxic chemicals and raw sewage because of flood waters. Along with that came degraded water quality, which hurt many in Iowa. In farming states like Iowa, higher water temperatures and decreased mixing have combined with high nutrient levels to create harmful algal blooms that make the water unsuitable for human and animal consumption.

An even more common health effect of climate change was its impact on respiratory and cardiovascular health. With warmer temperatures and higher carbon dioxide levels in the air, plants produce not only more pollen, but also pollen with a higher allergen content. A longer growing season extends the period of exposure to allergens, and new allergenic plants moving northward into Iowa are magnifying the range of exposures. Respiratory problems such as childhood asthma have increased dramatically in prevalence since the 1980s. 

Seven years ago, scientists were concerned about new diseases arriving as a result of climate change. They saw new species of mosquitoes and ticks in Iowa capable of transmitting diseases such as Dengue Fever and Ehrlichiosis. With increasing temperatures, more rainfall, and longer summers, these mosquitos and ticks can live longer and expand their range. 

Overall, health concerns resulting from climate change were common and important. These issues were one of the biggest concern for Iowans in 2014, but they are still here today.

Biden Administration Proposes New Environmental Law


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Josie Taylor | October 7, 2021

The Biden administration on Wednesday, October 6,  announced that it would restore climate change protections to the nation’s bedrock environmental law. The proposed changes would require the federal government to evaluate the climate change impacts of major new projects as part of the permitting process. 

Under the Biden administration’s proposed changes, agencies will have to consider the direct and indirect impacts that their projects may have on the climate, specifically how it pollutes American neighborhoods.

The goal of this proposed goal is to protect Americans from the harmful effects of pollution. Air polliution is the biggest environmental risk for early death. World wide, 9 in every 10 people breathe unclean air. 

If an agency’s project was not approved, they could work with local communities to figure out how to make it safer. The federal agenencies and local communities would work together to find a solution that would result in less pollution. 

The Biden administration is expected to publish its proposed rule in the Federal Register on Thursday and will take public comments on its plans for 45 days before issuing a final policy.

OSHA Announced New Federal Workplace Heat Checks


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Josie Taylor | October 4, 2021

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Sept. 24 announced that they will establish a federal workplace heat standard. They will hold heat inspections and enforce rules that protect workers from heat related hazards. 

In 2020, 882 emergency visits were caused by heat-related illnesses. Of those 882 patients, 44 were hospitalized. 

Heat-related illnesses and stresses can affect both workers who work outside and indoors. This is because of issues like lack of air conditioning or fans in some workplaces. 

An investigation by Politico and E&E News found that federal workplace safety officials have refused to set a workplace heat standard across nine presidential administrations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first recommended OSHA write heat-specific protections in 1975.

This problem is going to get worse as climate change raises temperatures, especially in the summer. This past July was the warmest month on record.  A study recently published found that children born today will likely experience, on average, seven times as many heat waves as their grandparents. 

OHSA said area directors will begin prioritizing inspections of heat-related complaints, referrals and employer-reported illnesses, and initiate onsite investigations where possible.

Joe Biden has a New Goal of Cutting Down Methane Emissions


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Josie Taylor | September 27, 2021

The United States and European Union are working on a pledge to cut methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030, President Joe Biden announced on Sept. 17, 2021. He urged countries around the world to join before the U.N. climate summit later this year. 

Cutting out methane would be beneficial for both slowing climate change and for the health of every citizen. There is less methane in the atmosphere than there is carbon dioxide, however it is a much more potent greenhouse gas when it comes to warming the planet. Methane also causes unhealthy air pollution. 

Methane emissions have been going up very quickly recently, and research shows they need to drop by almost half by 2030 to meet the Paris climate agreement goals. This means that the entire world needs to cut methane emissions. 

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, but it also contributes to surface ozone, which is a toxic air pollutant. Reducing methane improves air quality, while reducing the effects of climate change. Another benefit is that the results are almost immediate. 

Event on Climate and Infrastructure


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Thursday, September 23, at 5 p.m. the College of Engineering in partnership with CGRER and the CASE colloquium series presents a series of 4 webinars by world-renowned scientists who will explain the latest scientific findings, discuss measures to mitigate the impacts of climate change, adaptation to the effects on extreme weather, and natural systems, and ideas on engineering infrastructure for resilience in the face of change.

The first webinar will be presented by two leading researchers on climate and environment from the college of engineering at U Iowa, Prof. Greg Carmichael and Prof. Jerry Schnoor. The topic for the first webinar is:

“Climate science report AR6: what the IPPC’s latest climate report says about the changing climate, extreme weather and impacts on natural and engineered systems”

The zoom link for the event can be found here.

Cedar Rapids will Unveil a New Climate Action Plan


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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.