Iowa City Climate Fest – Day Three: Better buildings build a better future


Screenshot from the climate festival’s green building map.

Maxwell Bernstein | September 23, 2020

Iowa City’s Climate Fest is on its third day and will focus on how energy-efficient buildings can. save money.

The personal challenge for day 3 includes weatherizing your home for the winter. The climate fest provides this video from the U.S. Department of Energy that can save home-owners up to $83 a year with just one adjustment to the thermostat. The fest is also offering some simple and inexpensive DIY projects that can provide more savings for homes and apartments. 

The community event offers this link to check out LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) buildings in Iowa City. The Iowa City Climate Fest website offers more links and information to learn about green buildings. 

Climate Change is now Inevitable


Image from EPA

Maxwell Bernstein | September 23, 2020

Climate change is inevitable and natural disasters that are similar to those currently affecting the Gulf and West Coast will be twice as bad as they are now, if not worse, according to The New York Times

Proper actions are needed to mitigate some of the effects of climate change such as planning for the effects of natural disasters and rising sea levels, along with reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.

The succession of storms in the Gulf Coast and the record-breaking fires in the West Coast are all exacerbated by the changing climate, which stems from human-produced CO2 emission’s ability to trap heat. The frequency and severity of natural disasters will increase over time.

The Environmental Protection Agency said in August, “The global average atmospheric carbon dioxide in 2019 was 409.8 parts per million (ppm for short), with a range of uncertainty of plus or minus 0.1 ppm. Carbon dioxide levels today are higher than at any point in at least the past 800,000 years.”

As of Saturday, the Metronome, a large public art installation in Union Square in New York City now displays the Climate Clock, a time limit, “to curb greenhouse gas emissions enough to give the Earth a two-thirds chance of staying below 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming, as compared to pre-industrial times,” according to CBS news. 

As of now, the clock gives 7 years and 99 days to reach this goal. 

Hurricane Sally Hit the Gulf Coast on Wednesday as Wildfires Rage on in West Coast


Image of Hurricane Sally from NASA

Maxwell Bernstein | September 18, 2020

Hurricane Sally hit near Gulf Shores, Ala. on Wednesday as a Category 2 hurricane, and caused 377 people to require rescue in the Florida Panhandle, according to the New York Times

Around 275,000 people are without electricity in Alabama and 240,000 Floridians are without power. 

This hurricane season is the most active hurricane on record, with around 20 storms so far. The active hurricane season and the fires in the West Coast are heavily exacerbated by climate change, which will only create more severe weather conditions, according to The New York Times. 

Trump Denies Climate Change as Wild Fires Burn Through the West Coast


Image from NASA

Maxwell Bernstein | September 16, 2020

The August Complex wildfires on the West Coast have resulted in more than five million acres burned, with 27 people dead, according to The New York Times. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced as the wildfires threaten and burn homes and communities. 

The wildfires are creating the worst air quality on the planet, according to the air quality tracker, PurpleAir.  

Climate change will increase the frequency and intensity of forest fires as warming temperatures create hot and dry conditions, according to NASA. Despite the scientific evidence, President Donald Trump and California Secretary for Natural Resources, Wade Crowfoot, debated over the validity of climate change. 

“It’ll start getting cooler. You just watch,” President Donald Trump said to Crowfoot, referring to the warming climate. 

“I wish science agreed with you,” said Crowfoot. 

“Well I don’t think science knows, actually,” replied President Donald Trump. 

Wildfires Burn Through West Coast


Screenshot from USDA that shows perimeters of wildfires.

Maxwell Bernstein | September 11, 2020

The August Complex, a chain of wildfires in Washington, Oregon, and California has killed 7 people and destroyed 471,000 acres of property making this the largest wildfire in California’s history, according to The New York Times

The fires which started last month have burned through neighborhoods and forced evacuations. Kate Brown, the Governor of Oregon said this “could be the greatest loss of human life and property” due to wildfires, according to the BBC.

The warming climate is creating drier conditions and higher temperatures, which increase the severity and frequency of wildfires in the west coast, according to The New York Times

For more information on the current wildfires, check out this fire information website from the United States Department of Agriculture

President Trump Extends a Ban on Offshore Drilling


Via Flickr

Maxwell Bernstein | September 9, 2020

With 55 days until the election, President Donald Trump signed an order to expand a ban on offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico off of Florida with hopes of winning support for the 2020 election, according to Reuters.

The ban was originally set to expire in 2022 but has now been expanded to 2027 with backing by Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. This ban has heavy support from tourism, real estate, and environmental interests. 

Presidential candidate Joe Biden has said in his climate plan, that he will ban oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters, and plans to uphold and create legislation that lowers pollution along with curbing the effects of climate change.

EPA Administrator Hints to Trump’s Second Term Approach to Environmental Issues


Via Flickr

Maxwell Bernstein | September 4, 2020

If re-elected, President Trump will weaken environmental regulations that have delayed Superfund Cleanup projects, Andrew Wheeler, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator said to The Wall Street Journal

This announcement from Wheeler comes after the EPA was permitted by the Trump administration to issue 3,000 waivers for oil, gas, and farm operations to bypass environmental rules. The Trump administration also faced a lawsuit from nine environmental activist groups who sued over changes made to the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act.  

Trump’s approach to deregulations and changes to current environmental policies have a stark contrast to presidential candidate Joe Biden who unveiled a multifaceted, $2 trillion plan to fight climate change. With 60 days until the 2020 election, Americans will have to choose between different approaches to handling a rapidly evolving climate crisis.

United Nations Summit on Emerging Diseases and Deforestation Will Occur Next Month


Via Flickr

Maxwell Bernstein | September 2, 2020

A UN summit on biodiversity is scheduled for next month in New York City, where conservationists and biologists will discuss a strong link between deforestation and the emergence of novel diseases such as Covid-19, according to The Guardian

Land-use change, the process where humans transform natural land, is linked to 31% of emerging infectious diseases including HIV, Ebola, and Zika virus, according to Iowa Environmental Focus.

Proportions of animals that host pathogens that are detrimental to human health is anywhere from 21-144% higher in human-disturbed areas than non-disturbed habitats, according to Iowa Environmental Focus

“It is estimated that tens of millions of hectares of rainforest and other wild environments are being bulldozed every year to cultivate palm trees, farm cattle, extract oil and provide access to mines and mineral deposits,” The Guardian said. 

Toxins from Algae are at 10 Times the Federal Reccomendation for the Des Moines River


Via Flickr

Maxwell Bernstein | August 28, 2020

The Des Moines River has 10 times the federal recommendation for microcystin, toxins that come from algae, according to the Iowa Capital Dispatch.

The algae feed on fertilizer runoff and manure and produce toxins that cause health issues like skin rashes, intestinal problems, and even liver damage. 

The Des Moines River is one of the two largest sources of water to provide tap water and acts as a source of drinking water for around 500,000 Iowans. The toxins are suspected to originate at Saylorville Lake, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood-control reservoir that sits north of Des Moines.

Waivers Granted to Bypass Environmental Regulations Citing Coronavirus Pandemic


Via Flickr

Maxwell Bernstein | August 26, 2020

Oil and gas operations, farms, and thousands of similar operations have been granted permission to bypass environmental rules that are intended to protect health and the environment, according to the Associated Press.

On March 26, the Trump administration waived enforcement of EPA regulations, stating that industries would have difficulty complying with them because of COVID-19. This move came after letters were sent to President Donald Trump and later the EPA from The American Petroleum Institute stating that worker shortages and staff issues would make monitoring, reporting, and fixing hazardous air emissions difficult. 

The Associated Press found the EPA granted 3,000 waivers with the majority citing the outbreak of COVID-19.

“Oil and gas companies received a green light to skip dozens of scheduled tests and inspections critical for ensuring safe operations, such as temporarily halting or delaying tests for leaks or checking on tank seals, flare stacks, emissions monitoring systems or engine performance, which could raise the risk of explosions,” the Associated Press said.