U.S. Senate Passes Groundbreaking Climate Bill


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Josie Taylor | August 10, 2022

The U.S. Senate, along party lines, passed a sweeping energy, health care, climate and tax package Sunday afternoon, following an overnight marathon of votes that resulted in just a handful of notable changes to the legislation.

The 755-page bill was passed after Vice President Kamala Harris broke a 50-50 tie in the evenly divided Senate. It now heads to the House, where Democratic leaders have announced they will take it up on Friday. Iowa Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst voted against the bill.

The bill includes $369bn for climate action, the largest investment in the issue in US history. Some households could receive up to $7,500 in tax credits to buy an electric car, or $4,000 for a used car. Billions will also be spent in an effort to speed up the production of clean technology such as solar panels and wind turbines.

There will also be $60bn given to communities that have suffered the most from fossil fuel pollution. The authors of the bill say it will cut the country’s carbon emissions by 40% by 2030.

The action on climate comes as the US experiences a wave of extreme weather, including a recent heatwave as well as deadly flooding in Kentucky that left dozens dead.

Iowa Seeks Funding for Coal Mine Mitigation


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Josie Taylor | August 5, 2022

According to the state Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa will apply for up to $6 million of new federal funding to handle the pollution and other safety hazards posed by leftover coal mines in the southeastern part of the state.

The Interior Department invited states this week to apply for a portion of the $725 million set aside this year for abandoned mine cleanup from the 2021 infrastructure bill. States with more-substantial past mining are eligible for more than $100 million. Iowa’s eligibility was capped by the department at $6 million.

The funding would benefit Iowa’s Abandoned Mined Land Reclamation program, which began in 1983. It has mitigated about a third of the state’s roughly 300 sites so far, according to IDALS. The program is primarily funded through federal taxes on current coal mining, and the state gets about $2.9 million each year.

The extra funding is boost for abandoned mine cleanup efforts by the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.

The extra funding in the infrastructure law was meant to both eliminate pollution from mining sites and to provide job opportunities in communities that have historically relied on coal mining.

Iowa State University Introduces New Climate Science Major


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Josie Taylor | August 2, 2022

Students at Iowa State University will have the opportunity to study climate science in the 2022-2023 school year. This unique program aims to prepare students to solve climate-based challenges.

Chair of geological and atmospheric sciences, Kristie Franz, said she’s excited to introduce the new major to students. Although scientists have been talking about climate change for decades, Franz said it’s become an urgent issue to students in recent years.

The bachelor of science degree will allow students to choose from six areas of focus: advanced climate science, data visualization, design and planning for sustainability, policy and human behavior, science communication and agriculture, and natural resources. 

The coursework will consist of many classes within the university’s earth science department, but will go a step further and integrate economic and communications courses.

Associate professor Lindsay Maudlin who was brought on to teach climate science courses said an interdisciplinary look at climate change is vital to preparing students to tackle the issue.

Alaska Experiences Extreme Wildfires


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Josie Taylor | July 25, 2022

In Alaska, wildfires are burning in ways that are rarely seen. Areas that are usually fireproof, or mostly fireproof, are burning.

More than 530 wildfires have burned an area the size of Connecticut, and the usual worst of the fire season is still later in the summer. While little property has burned, some residents have been forced to evacuate.

Recent rains have helped but longer-term forecasts are showing a pattern similar to 2004. In 2004, July rains gave way to high-pressure systems, hot days, low humidity and lightning strikes that fueled Alaska’s worst fire year.

The acreage burned by mid-July was about the same as now, but by the time that fire season ended, 10,156 square miles were burned.

Heat waves and droughts are making wildfires more frequent, destructive, and harder to fight in many places. This month, wildfires have torn through Portugal, Spain, France, England and Germany, which have seen record-high temperatures.

Crops in Northwest Iowa Suffer Due to Drought


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Josie Taylor | July 6, 2022

Corn and soybean plants are continuing to suffer in some parts of Iowa from excessive heat and drought. This has been seen especially in far northwest Iowa where drought conditions are worsening. 

Large areas of Plymouth and Woodbury counties are in extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. It’s the first time in nearly a year that any part of the state was that dry. 

Much of the state’s corn crop is at its peak demand for water, and the soybean crop is approaching its peak. A small percentage of corn had begun to show silk for pollination as of Sunday, and about 13% of soybeans were blooming, the USDA report said.

In the past three weeks, the percentage of the state’s corn that is rated good or excellent has dropped from 86 to 77. 

Although there is drought in part of the state, soil moisture is still improved from a year ago. About two-thirds of the state’s topsoil and subsoil has adequate or surplus moisture, whereas last year more than half of the soil was short, according to the USDA report.

Iowa Climate Statement 2021 Read by Presenters


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. 

The video above shows the 2021 Climate Statement read aloud by those who worked on it. They warn about extreme temperatures, floods, droughts and extreme storms.

The presenters also share what can be done to help prevent some climate disasters. This includes changing infrastructure to accommodate for extreme weather patterns.

Corn Planting is Ahead of Schedule After Early Delays


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Josie Taylor | June 8, 2022

Corn farmers have gone from at least two weeks behind schedule to three days ahead, according to a new U.S. Department of Agriculture report on Monday. After early delays, there has been a successful rush to plant. 

That report estimated that 98% of Iowa’s corn crop and 94% of soybeans have been planted, which compared to the five-year average is three days ahead for corn and six days ahead for soybeans.

A rush in planting means farmers’ concerns have expanded. They’re determining when to apply their first herbicides, checking for pests and contending with varying weather conditions since the timeline is different from past years. 

As of Thursday, nearly three-quarters of the state was sufficiently wet to avoid designations of abnormally dry or drought. About 9% of the state was in moderate or severe drought, focused near Sioux City.

In a weekly report about farmers’ progress, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig noted severe storms damaged young crops last week.

Longer-term climate predictions say it will get drier this summer, and it’s likely for drought conditions to develop across much of Iowa, with the exception of far eastern parts of the state, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Iowa May See Blackouts Summer 2022


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Josie Taylor | June 2, 2022

Iowans and other Midwestern residents could experience energy blackouts this summer if extreme heat and spiking demand coincide with insufficient power.

This warning was made by North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC), a Georgia-based regulatory authority, and it prompted state regulators to question utilities on how they would handle controlled outages. Iowa and 14 other states are at high risk of “energy emergencies during peak summer conditions,” NERC said.

Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) told utilities whose power grid it serves, including the majority of those in Iowa, that it expects summer demand to increase 1.7% over last summer. 

Iowa utility leaders told state regulators they anticipate having enough energy to meet consumer demand for electricity. If MISO calls for reducing energy use, they have plans in place to comply.

While the greatest risk of summer outages is in the Midwest, most of the western U.S. will be at moderate risk, NERC said. That forecast includes Southwest Power Pool, another grid operator that includes part of western Iowa.

India is experiencing a heatwave that is impacting the wheat harvest


Wheat field
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Elyse Gabor | May 3, 2022

India is experiencing a record-breaking heatwave. Dangerous temperatures have affected millions of people. Some regions are predicted to reach 120 Fahrenheit, which will have detrimental effects on the country’s wheat harvest.

India and the United States nearly make up a third of wheat exports. India was expected to produce around 122 million tons, a record amount. However, the country has just experienced its hottest March to date. The heatwave hit the central wheat-growing regions and is expected to last long into harvest season. 

The hot spell has affected India’s farmers, with many of them experiencing a depletion in their wheat crop. A farmer from the Uttar Pradesh’s Etawah district, Devendra Singh Chauhan, said in a text message to NBC News, “If such unreasonable weather patterns continue year after year, farmers will suffer badly.”

Harjeet Singh, senior adviser to Climate Action Network, said, “[Wheat] prices will be driven up, and if you look at what is happening in Ukraine, with many countries relying on wheat from India to compensate, the impact will be felt well beyond India.”