Deadly Tornadoes Hit Kentucky and Others this Weekend


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Josie Taylor | December 13, 2021

Late Friday night and early Saturday morning brought deadly tornadoes to Kentucky and other states nearby. There were at least 50 tornado reports from late Friday into Saturday in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee, according to the Storm Prediction Center.

As of this afternoon, the death toll stands at 74 in Kentucky, with 109 Kentuckians still unaccounted for, according to Gov. Andy Beshear. The numbers are coming from emergency management. 

The tornado that devastated numerous communities in Kentucky was on the ground continuously for at least 128 miles in the state, and likely longer, an official with the National Weather Service (NWS) in Paducah told CNN on Monday.

Scientists know that warm weather and precipitation are key ingredients in tornadoes and that climate change is altering the environment in which these kinds of storms form, however they can’t directly connect those dots. The research into the link between climate and tornadoes still lags behind that of other extreme weather events such as hurricanes and wildfires.

The Iowa Environmental Council is Holding a Clean Energy Talk


Via Iowa Environmental Council

Josie Taylor | November 16, 2021

On Thursday, November 18, the Iowa Environmental Council will hold a two-hour Bright Ideas 2021 event to discuss sources of clean energy in Iowa, like solar and wind power. 

The event runs from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Des Moines but has satellite, group-viewing options in Iowa City and Waterloo. Attendees also have the option to watch a livestream that doesn’t allow participation. 

The featured speaker is Destenie Nock, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. She plans to address energy equity. 

The in-person locations include a brunch. The cost to attend ranges from $25 for online viewing to $65 for the Des Moines location. Students and young professionals will get discounts.More information is available here.

Americans in High Risk Climate Areas are Waiting for Climate Change Solutions


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Josie Taylor | November 1, 2021

As climate change worsens, natural disasters are becoming more devastating. Americans in high risk areas are being hurt and are anxiously awaiting solutions. 

Although some of the damage is irreversible, halting the advance of climate change is both attainable and vital for life as we know it, according to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a global consortium of climate scientists from 66 nations. 

The panel’s report “Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis” is described by United Nations Secretary General António Guterres as a “code red for humanity.” It is a centerpiece of the global climate summit opening Sunday in Glasgow, Scotland. Some 30,000 people from around the world are gathering for it. 

The IPCC says climate warming is already at 1.2 degrees C and must be limited to 1.5 C, though it is on trajectory to 2.8. Beyond 1.5 C, the climate will become more dangerous — with prolonged heat waves, severe droughts, widespread flooding, and worsening health conditions — and by 4 C, it will be unfit for human habitation, client scientists predict.

If action is not taken, Americans in areas like Florida or California will see life threatening situations with floods and wildfires, though Americans around the country will see the effects as well.

Greenhouse Gas Levels Reached a New Record


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Josie Taylor | October 27, 2020

Heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a new record last year, with the annual rate of increase above the 2011-2020 average. That trend has continued in 2021, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Greenhouse Gas Bulletin

As long as emissions continue, global temperature will continue to rise. CO2 has a long life, therefore the temperature level already observed will persist for several decades even if emissions are rapidly reduced to net zero. Rising temperatures is not the only thing that these emissions will cause. This also means more weather extremes like intense heat and rainfall, ice melt, sea-level rise and ocean acidification. All of these extremes also have socioeconomic impacts.

Roughly half of the CO2 emitted by human activities today remains in the atmosphere. The other half is taken up by oceans and land ecosystems. The Bulletin flagged concern that the ability of land ecosystems and oceans to act as “sinks” may become less effective in future. This means that more of the CO2 will go into the atmosphere and temperatures will increase at an even higher rate. 

Carbon dioxide is the most important greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, accounting for approximately ⅔ of climate change effects, mainly because of fossil fuel combustion and cement production.

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.

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.

Climate Change is a Human Rights Issue, UN Rights Chief Warns.


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Josie Taylor | September 16, 2021

UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet warned the UN of what she called the biggest challenge to human rights- climate change. She said on Monday climate change, pollution, and nature loss are severely affecting human rights, while countries across the globe fail to take the necessary action. 

“As these environmental threats intensify, they will constitute the single greatest challenge to human rights of our era,” Bachelet said at the 48th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The UN has many goals they hope to reach by 2030. These goals include ending poverty, ending hunger, access to clean water worldwide and more. All of these issues are directly impacted by climate change. 

Bachelet said that climate change is putting people in extremely vulnerable situations, and it is “murdering” people. Not only are people dying directly from climate disasters, they are hungry from droughts and homeless from fires. All of these should be considered human rights violations, according to Bachelet.

Bill in Congress has Four Important Climate Aspects


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Josie Taylor | September 13, 2021

The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee approved its first piece of Democrats’ sweeping $3.5 trillion spending blueprint on a party-line 24-13 vote last week. Among the highest priorities for President Joe Biden in the plan was addressing climate change. 

The climate items are key for progressives in the House, dozens of whom have pledged not to support the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill unless a more robust climate bill also passes. 

One of the massive climate bills is the Natural Resources bill. This would make changes to oil and gas that climate activists have been advocating for. For example, this would raise rates on oil and gas developers operating on public lands and waters. 

The bill would also direct the Interior Department to hold lease sales for offshore windmills in U.S. territories.

$9.5 trillion would be used for Great Lakes restoration and coastal resilience. The projects would aim to increase protection from sea-level rise, flooding and storms, while also adding carbon sinks like seagrass.

The last climate aspect of the bill would be putting $3.5 billion towards climate jobs programs. Of this money, $3 billion would be for the creation of a Civilian Climate Corps and $500 million for a program focused only on tribal lands.

US House Looks to Include $1 Billion for Biofuels in Budget


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Josie Taylor | September 9, 2021

The U.S. House will include $1 billion in biofuels funding in its initial draft of the budget bill, according to U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne.

The proposed funding is part of a $3.5 trillion bill currently working through The House. If passed, $1 billion would go to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to be used as grants to expand and upgrade biofuel infrastructure and to increase the usage of higher ethanol and diesel blends.

“To fight climate change, we can’t just keep arguing over what one policy is best to cut emissions. We need to use every tool in our toolbelt — both renewables and electric — to meet the challenge we’re facing,” Axne said. 

President Joe Biden has set an agenda centered primarily around electric vehicles, including a goal that half of all new cars in 2030 be electric. Iowa’s representatives have pushed back against those goals, arguing that biofuels are a near-term solution for cleaner energy. Iowa is the nation’s top producer of ethanol.

Over the next month, House and Senate Republicans will work on an agreement for this bill, however this is not a bipartisan bill. Representative Axne has said that she will not make her decision about supporting the bill until after negotiations end. 

Biden aims to raise solar energy production from 4 to 45%


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Elizabeth Miglin | September 8, 2021

The Biden administration announced plans to produce half of the nation’s electricity through solar power by 2050, on Wednesday. 

Last year, solar energy provided less than 4 percent of the country’s electricity, now the administration aims to raise production to 45 percent. A new report by the Department of Energy argues the U.S. must quadruple annual solar installations by 2025 in order to reach the administrations’ goal of decarbonizing the power sector. 

Pressure to expedite the transition off of fossil fuels has increased due to recent natural disasters across the country, including Hurricane Ida in New Jeresy and New York, which have highlighted weaknesses in the current energy system. 

With the cost of solar panels dropping over the last decade, solar has become one of the cheapest sources of energy for much of the U.S. The reduced costs has boosted the solar and wind energy market where growth has exceeded government and independent analysts predictions. In culmination, a U.S. Energy Information Administration report projects renewable energy sources will share 42% of the U.S. electricity mix by 2050 at our current growth rate. 

Additionally, the administration hopes to reduce net emission from the power sector to zero by 2035, add hundreds of offshore wind turbines and ensure half of all new cars sold are electric by 2030.