Why Climate Change Makes It Harder to Fight Fire With Fire

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Simone Garza | May 9, 2022

The increase of climate change is causing longer wildfires, making it difficult to plan intentional fires.

As the summer season is approaching, there are extreme wildfires that have been reported in Nebraska, Arizona and New Mexico. New Mexico has recently been reported of a wildfire that passed over 165,000 acres. The extensions of wildfires are due to longer and drier summer seasons, drier soils, and warmer springs. Wildfires tend to have both pros and cons.

The pros of wildfires are that it permits nutrients to return to the soil, and has a part in plant reproduction. The cons of wildfires, is that it can release carbon dioxide in the air, as it can worsen climate change. The continuous spread of wildfires can lead to smog, creating issues for people that inhale the pollutants. Inhaling wildfire pollutants can cause inflammation, respiratory infections, and adjust the immune system.

Climate change has made it hard to schedule intentional wildfires, a method which assists the removal of dead tree limbs, leaves, and knock down invasive plants.

Last year, the United States Forest Service used controlled fire over 1.8 million acres of federal land. The agency is planning to tend to 50 million acres, both including national and federal lands, within the next decade. 

Ocean life projected to die off in mass extinction if emissions remain high

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Simone Garza | May 2, 2022

A new study found marine animals are at risk for mass extinction if there’s a continuous lack of oxygen and warmer sea temperatures.

On April 28, the study from Science journal  reported that the more global warming, the smaller number of species can survive. 

“If we don’t act to curb emissions, that extinction is quite high. It registers on the geological scale among the major biotic collapses of diversity in the Earth’s history,” said Curtis Deutsch, an author of the paper and a professor of geosciences at Princeton University.

A new model shows if emissions continue to grow by 2300, the Earth could reach a marine extinction similar to the“Great Dying”. The “Great Dying” was a Perimian level where over two-thirds of marine life went extinct 252 million years ago.

Climate change also causes ocean stratification, which divides temperatures from surface water and underneath water. Ocean stratification in the deep and colder water blocks off nutrients, risking the growth of phytoplankton in the warmer surface water.

Greenhouse gasses have also confined energy from the sun, which causes oceans to absorb heat and heighten temperatures at both sea surface and rising sea levels.
Some sea animals that are currently endangered and are at an increased risk include the horse conch, sea turtles, and blue whales. Sea animals are crucial for developing medicinal material, like antibiotics, food security, and employment opportunities.

Climate change linked to fewer bugs, study finds

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Simone Garza | April 25, 2022

A new study shows insects that are vital for supporting food chains and pollinating plants are declining in population.

On April 20, Nature journal reported factors like agriculture and global warming are affecting a wide variety of insects. Regions that were documented with climate change and redeveloped for agriculture, including the use of monoculture of pesticides, had less than 50 percent of insects. An average slightly over 25 percent of species were also found.

The study included collected data from 264 formerly published biodiversity studies. The studies had about 18,000 species, like grasshoppers, butterflies, beetles and bees. Insects such as Ladybugs and Praying Mantis, can limit plant pests

Other insects, like ants and caterpillars, can provide vitamins, minerals and protein.

David Wagner, a University of Connecticut entomologist who is not connected to the study, said insects tether everything together.

“If you remove the insects from the planet, basically life as we know it would grind to a halt. We would not have as much soil manufacture,” Wagner said. “There would be no bird life. There would be little food produced on land. We would lose many of our fruits and agricultural crops.”  Wagner has done previous research on decreasing insect populations, reporting that one percent to two percent of insects are decrying due to invasive species, herbicides, insecticides and mild pollution.

Pesticides can affect reproduction of pollinators on memory-loss and navigation. Pesticides can also contaminate the environment, like water and soil, becoming an unsafe host to birds, fish, and untargeted plants.

Methane in atmosphere hits new high, rising at fastest rate recorded

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Simone Garza | April 11, 2022

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported the amount of methane is rapidly increasing. This is an air pollutant and greenhouse gas resulting in 1 million premature deaths yearly. 

Methane is a colorless and odorless flammable gas. While it is an important element of natural gas, methane emissions are responsible for 30 percent of climate change. Methane emission is associated with raising livestock and organic matter decaying.

Greenhouse gasses ,like carbon dioxide, are more potent and a secondary contributor to global warming, but break down faster and are temporary. The greenhouse gasses absorb infrared heat in the form of heat. Greenhouse gasses can also be released into the atmosphere when oil, coal, and natural gas are mined and transferred. 

On April 7, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the atmospheric methane levels for 2021 have spiked 17 parts per billion. 2021 has the biggest recorded annual increase since the development of systematic measurements in 1983.

The Earth System Science Data journal found human activities made up about 60 percent of global methane emissions last year alone. In 2019, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported about 18 percent  were responsible for all greenhouse gas emissions. 

Jae Edmonds, a chief scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Joint Global Change Research Institute and contributor to the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, said methane symbolizes both a barrier and advantage for smoother progress to maintaining climate change. 

“It’s both good news and bad news. Its human-related sources are quite varied, many of which are relatively straightforward to tackle,” Edmonds said in an interview about the newest IPCC findings.

Iowa’s bird flu death toll tops 13 million

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Simone Garza | April 4, 2022

Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship reported that there’s two more chicken flocks, one including a 5 million egg-laying chickens, that are infected with avian influenza. 

On March 31, a total of 12 detections were found in nine counties that affected 13.2 millions birds. 

The recent detections were found in Osceola County, and in a flock of 88,000 turkeys in Cherokee County. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, Mike Naig, said the infection could stick around for two more months. 

The birds could be carriers of the virus, which could be asymptomatic if they are infected. Infected birds can transfer the virus through their nasal secretion, feces and saliva. Majority of the infected birds have been egg-laying due to the capacity of their flocks. Naig said that Iowa is the nation’s top producer, with an estimate of 60 million laying hens. About 21 percent of the total population are infected. 

This year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture data reported that Iowa’s affected birds account for 59 percent of the country’s total population of 22.4 million. Naig expects prices to increase due to the virus. 

“If we continue to see the spread of (highly pathogenic avian influenza) and affecting more and more sites … I think you could very well see a change in price and even availability,” he said in an appearance on Iowa Press on Friday.”

Detection rate of the avian influenza in Iowa is also surging. On March 1, a detection was found in a backyard flock in Pottawattamie County. 

Climate change makes Iowa hospitable to potentially virulent new host

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Simone Garza | March 28,2022

The effects of climate change in Iowa has caused an unintentional import of Asian tiger mosquitoes to rise.

Since the 1980s, imports from Southeast Asia left traces of Aedes albopictus, the Asian tiger mosquito in southeastern states like California. The harshness of winters in states like Iowa assumed to end the reproducing of the insect. However, an Iowa State University team found the mosquito making a home in Des Moines, Lee, and Polk counties in central Iowa. 

With warmer climates emerging, the Asian tiger mosquito is able to broaden its relocation rate. Characteristics of the mosquito are described as “pretty”, colored black with an white abdomen and white bands on its legs

The Asian tiger mosquito can carry Zika, Chikungunya and Dengue viruses, which all can lead to health issues for humans. Women infected with Zika in South and Central America who are pregnant can have microcephaly, a birth defect where babies have smaller brains and are less developed compared to other infants. 

Chikungunya virus can threaten humans with underlying health issues associated with diabetes or hypertension. The Chikungunya virus can also cause joint pain and fever within one week of an infection. The Dengue virus is surrounded by 4 billion people, roughly half the earth’s population. Typical symptoms include rashes, joint pain, and high fever.

To spread these viruses, the mosquito would need to bite someone already infected with them. Since this is rare in Iowa due to low infection rates, it would be difficult to transfer the virus into another person.

In 2020, four cases of Zika were detected amongst travelers with no reports from Iowa residents. Currently, the West Nile Virus is still a primary threat to Iowans, with its first reported case from mosquitoes in June 2020. 

Drought and war: global wheat supplies in peril

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Simone Garza | March 14, 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened food prices since May 2020.

Now, the current Russia’s war in Ukraine is impacting food prices, too. There are currently two top wheat producers in a region known as Europe’s breadbasket causing inflation in other places such as Chicago, and heightening the livelihood of hunger and food shortages.

The instability in the region leaves numerous U.S. farmers in the drought-stricken West muddled, as prices on fertilizer and fuel. The Ukrainian government banned export of wheat, oats and sugar.

On average, Russia and Ukraine combined make about 30 percent of global wheat exports.

In 2020, Food and Culture of Organizations in the United Nations reported that between 720 to 811 million people experienced food hunger.

With raised food prices already because of the pandemic, February hit an all time high with prices surging up to 2.1 percent. Wheat is a global necessity, as the war rockets the cost. The United States exports half of its wheat supply to Mexico and the Philippines.

In 2020 and 2021, the United States reported to export 992 million bushels of wheat.

The Middle East, Asia, and Northern Africa depend on imports from Russia and Ukraine. According to the International Grains Council, about one-third of Ukraine’s total wheat supply exports to Indonesia, Bangladesh and Egypt.

Asia and Australia are having a banner year, which is a good year of production. This may benefit the global burden of war in the Ukraine.

Wheat is an essential source of carbohydrates. In addition, wheat also is major for its energy and starch. Wheat is also used for flour as it makes a variety of food like noodles, breakfast cereals, and pastry snacks.

UN: Africa already suffering from warming, will worsen

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Simone Garza | March 7, 2022

As Africa suffers from global warming, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted that Sahara flooding, drought, and heat will accerlate in the future.

Africa’s plants and wildlife will decrease in number, as glaciers from the ice mountains will vanish overtime.

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel also reported that farmers and fishermen will be negatively impacted by climate change.

Safari Mbuvi, a Kenyan Farmer, told ABC News that he is trying to bring back his crops from a four year drought.

“Since I was young, my father used to get a bounty harvest in this farm, but now, there seems to be a change in climate and the rains are no longer dependable,” he said. “I will not harvest anything, not even a single sack of maize is possible… And I am not the only one. Every farmer in this area has lost everything.”

The combination of climate change, economic crises, and instability in the continent has resulted in famine. In 2020, a report showed approximately 98 million people experienced severe food insecurity and needed humanitarian support in Africa as a result of global warming.

The U.N. report also said global warming will deplete Africa’s food supply because of water scarcity and short-term growing seasons. This will decrease yields of livestock production, olives, coffee, tea, and sorghum plants. 

According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the malnourished population in sub-Saharan Africa has increased by 45.6 percent since 2012. 

By 2100, the report said climate change is likely to lead to more than half of the extinction of African bird and mammal species. There may also be a 20 to 25 percent reduction in Africa’s productivity of plant species and lakes because of the warming. 

Sea Ice Around Antarctica Reaches a Record Low

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Simone Garza | February 28,2022

A recent analysis of satellite images revealed the sea ice surrounding Antarctica is at a record low after forty years of observations. 

On Feb. 22, sea ice covered only 750,000 square miles around the Antarctic coast. This report is extremely low compared to 2017 as the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado’s analysis showed an ice record of 815,000 square miles.

Antarctic sea ice amounts vary by year, but have increased slightly on average since the late 1970s.

In contrast, sea ice extent in the Arctic, typically warming nearly three times faster than other regions, has decreased more than 10 percent every decade over the same period.

Although disturbance of normal weather patterns and erosion of arctic coastlines is the explanation for the shrinking of sea ice in the Arctic, it is unclear what the impact of climate change is on the Antarctic, according to the center.

Edward Blanchard-Wrigglesworth, a climate scientist at the University of Washington, said scientists predict that global warming will lead to a decrease in Antarctic sea ice over time.

There has been research involving the El Niños in 2015 and 2016, which is a climate pattern that causes unusual warming of surface waters in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, that showed when sea surface temperatures were unusually high it led to decreased sea ice coverage in 2016. 

Marilyn Raphael, a professor of geography at the University of California, Los Angeles, who studies Antarctic sea ice, said another possible effect could trace back to wind around the western side of the Amundsen Sea continent. A region of low air pressure regularly develops over the sea and has been strong this year. This may have driven ice more to the north, meaning there is warmer water where it could melt rapidly.

Sea ice is essential because it maintains the Earth’s energy and keeps polar regions cool by reflecting sunlight back to space. Sea ice is also vital for polar ecosystems, as it releases nutrients in the water when ice melts in the summer. Sea ice also helps prevent global warming by confining existing heat in the ocean, to refrain from warming the air above.

Fuel stations want more funding for E15 requirements

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Simone Garza | February 17, 2022

Fuel stations may need additional financial support for proposed new requirements of all gas stations to sell a gasoline blend with 15 percent ethanol.

E15 fuel is a budget-friendly combination of 85 percent gasoline and 15 percent ethanol that burns cleaner than gasoline. The impact of advocating for E15 fuel at Iowa gas pumps is to reduce emissions from gas vehicles which would reduce cases of asthma and respiratory illnesses. Ethanol also lowers greenhouse gas emissions between 40 to 50 percent in contrast to petroleum.

Iowa House File 2128 was proposed earlier in the 2022 Legislative session, focusing on putting an E15 option at all fuel stations in the state. Iowa Democrats and Republicans have voiced support for the legislation in recent weeks, including the bill receiving unanimous support from a Senate agriculture subcommittee last week. 

The current proposal will provide approximately $50,000 for stores that need to upgrade both pumps and tanks to allow higher concentrations of ethanol, which can break down specific rubbers and plastics. The bill states if costs to a fuel station business exceeds $72,000, the business will be exempt from the legislation. Some gas station owners, however, are still concerned about going out of business according to the Dispatch. 

Glenn Hasken, chief operating officer of Molo Companies in Dubuque, told Iowa Capital Dispatch that he believes the state should offer up to $200,000 for store upgrades because the current bill is not palatable to small operators.

A January 2022 study of Iowa’s ethanol use said the switch from 10 percent ethanol to 15 percent within the state would generate up to $73 million of new yearly revenue.

Casey’s General Store lobbyist Tom Cope has previously opposed the legislation, but would support the legislation if more funds were offered to businesses. Cope is also working to broaden the waiver for old tanks that cannot conform to E15 fuels.