Australia’s carbon emissions continuing to rise


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Australia (Mauro/flickr)
Kasey Dresser | January 12, 2018

Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions rose for the 3rd consecutive year. According to the Environment Department, carbon rose 0.7% this year because of an increase in gas production and exports. In 2016, Australia’s levels rose 0.8% and they were warned they were off track to miss the 2030 target set by the Paris Climate Change Agreement. Australia’s government signed the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 which outlined a plan to reduce emissions 26-28% by 2030.

Despite the increasing carbon levels, Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg claims they are still on track and, “the final decision on the timing and appropriate quantity and quality limits will be taken by 2020 following further consultation and detailed analysis.” “If you look on a yearly basis [it] is true [that emissions went up]. But if you look on the last quarter, they went down. If you look at the trend, it is improving.”

Minister Frydenberg’s statement is not congruent with the 2017 United Nations Emissions Gap Report that stated the “government projections indicate that emissions are expected to reach 592 [million tonnes] in 2030, in contrast to the targeted range of 429-440 [million tonnes]. The Environment Department‘s most recent review said that Australia is currently responsible for 1.3% of carbon emissions.

Climate Change could affect food sources for marine life


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Ocean (Alistair Cook/flickr) 
Kasey Dresser | January 10, 2018

Recent research conducted at the University of Adelaide looked at the how commercial fish stocks could be negatively impacted by rising sea temperatures.

To test their theory, PhD student, Hadayet Ullah and supervisors Professor Ivan Nagelkerken and Associate Professor Damien Fordham of the University’s Environment Institute, managed twelve 1,600 liter tanks that mimicked the predicted habitat changes in the ocean. The recreated food webs were maintained for 6 months while the researchers gathered information on survival, growth, biomass, and productivity of the animals and plants to use these measurements in a food web model.

A food web maps out the flow of energy in an ecosystem. At the bottom are algae and other food producers, then intermediate consumers like herbivores and finally predators at the tops. Shifts in the bottom of the energy transfer affects the amount of food available for predators.

“Healthy food webs are important for maintenance of species diversity and provide a source of income and food for millions of people worldwide,” said Mr Ullah. “Therefore, it is important to understand how climate change is altering marine food webs in the near future.”

At the end of the 6 months they found, “climate change increased the productivity of plants, this was mainly due to an expansion of cyanobacteria (small blue-green algae),” said Mr Ullah. “This increased primary productivity does not support food webs, however, because these cyanobacteria are largely unpalatable and they are not consumed by herbivores.” Less food for herbivores would result in a smaller population which means less food for predators.

 

California Wildfires


Kasey Dresser | January 5, 2018

Hello everybody!

I’m Kasey and I’m a student at the University of Iowa. I’m currently visiting home during winter break in beautiful San Diego, California. And as I’m sure you seen on the news I came home after an extremely destructive fire season.  Luckily I live closer to the coast so my home was not affected but my grandma and several of my friends were evacuated.  All of the local high schools, including my sisters, were closed. Last weekend, My dad and I headed inland to film the damage.

 

Turning food waste into green energy


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Wasting Food (jbloom/flickr)
Kasey Dresser | January 3,  2018

Americans waste 133 billion pounds of food each year. Not only is that a waste of natural resources but food waste produces methane which is a harmful greenhouse gas. Researchers at Cornell University have been looking at more productive ways of using leftover food.

The process is a combination of hydrothermal liquefaction and anaerobic digestion.

Hydrothermal liquefaction is a process where the food is heated (kind of like a pressure cooker) to extract oil that can be used for fuel.

The anaerobic digestion process breaks down the microbes in the food waste into a mixture primarily composed of methane and carbon dioxide. This gas can be used to power heat and electricity.

Other methods of turning food waste into energy are also being developed but Roy Posmanik, a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell, is really excited about this quick new solution. “We’re talking about minutes in hydrothermal liquefaction and a few days in an anaerobic digester,” he said in a written statement. Posmanik says he could see a day where all food waste from homes, supermarkets, restaurants are immediately shipped to treatment plans. Posmanik needs to do more research before he discovers the cost but “government incentives for renewable energy credits can make a lot of difference.”

 

On The Radio – UNESCO Natural World Heritage sites threatened by climate change


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Many of the world’s greatest reefs have lost their colorful algae due to rising sea temperatures. (Robert Linsdell/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | January 1, 2017

This week’s segment discusses how climate change is becoming more threatening to natural wonders around the world. 

Transcript: Climate change now threatens one in four Natural World Heritage sites.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

There are a total of 206 Natural World Heritage properties elected by UNESCO or the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The organization announced at November’s United Nations climate change summit in Bonn, Germany that sixty-two of these sites are now considered to be at risk due to climate change, up from 35 sites listed in 2014.

A variety of sites are threatened, but coral reefs and wetlands are among the most fragile ecosystems. Rising sea temperatures have killed off colorful algae that used to adorn the Belize Barrier Reef and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The Everglades are also threatened by climate change as sea level rise brings salt water into the wetland ecosystem.

Proper management can reduce risk for some threatened natural heritage sites. The report tells of replenished elephant and chimpanzee populations in Ivory Coast’s Comoé national park due to successful management and international support.

For more information, visit iowa-environmental-focus-dot-org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.

Iowan cities reducing pollution to fulfill Paris Climate Change Agreement


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Wind Power (Ian Hill/ flickr) 
Kasey Dresser | December 29,  2017

Since Trump has officially pulled support from the Paris Climate Change Accord, mayors within the U.S. are pledging for their cities to help meet the goals. 50 plus mayors signed the Chicago Climate Charter to meet Paris Climate Agreement’s pollution reduction goals during the North American Climate Summit. Des Moines, Dubuque, Fairfield, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids and several other Iowan mayors have now stepped up to do the same.

There are 3 main goals to reduce pollution:

  1. Utilizing Iowa’s wind power, achieve 100% renewable energy for municipal electricity needs by 2022.
  2. Buying Electric Vehicles (EV) to lower greenhouse gas emissions.
  3. Replacing buildings with incandescent bulbs to LEDS and getting rid of any old appliances or softwares.

The Environmental Law & Policy Center is excited that cities are stepping up and plans to make arrangement that will tailor to Iowa’s benefit.

China is taking influence from California’s cap and trade program to reduce carbon emission


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Smog (Hyun Jin Cho/flickr)
Kasey Dresser | December 26,  2017

Cap and trade is a government based program that controls the amount of carbon emissions that a company is allowed to emit. The company buys a permit that allows them to release a specific amount.

California, and parts of Canada and the UK already have cap and trade programs set up. China met with Governor Jerry Brown over the summer to discuss China’s carbon markets. Since the start of the cap and trade program in 2012, California has raised $4.4 billion by selling credits. The plan is to have greenhouse gas emissions cut by 80% in 2050. The program has also created more local jobs.  This progress is an example not only for states but more countries too.

The first steps in China’s cap and trade program will cover the electricity industry. This will focus on reducing coal-fire based energy. Later the program will expand to transportation and industrial sectors. Forbes predicted that if China can get the price of carbon to $10 on the national market and keep it there, they can eliminate a quarter of their emissions by 2030.

The United States and China are responsible for 42% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. President Xi’s actions have committed himself to the Paris Climate Change Agreement and since the United States has pulled support, he has pledged to have a larger international leadership position.