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. This process has been open to all of our state’s academic climate experts to ensure that our statements are factual. Climate change has been measured, and the integrity of the measurements has been accepted through review by thousands of scientists worldwide.
Authors of the “Iowa Climate Statement 2015: Time for Action” presented their findings and called for presidential hopefuls to address climate change while on the campaign trail.
Iowa Climate Statement 2015: Time for Action – Re-release: October 9, 2015
The Iowa Climate Statement 2014: Impacts on the Health of Iowans examines public health risks associated with climate change.
The Iowa Climate Statement 2013: A Rising Challenge to Iowa Agriculture was signed by 155 science faculty and research staff from 36 Iowa colleges and universities. “The strong support for the statement represents the growing consensus among Iowa science faculty and research staff that action is needed now to reduce heat trapping gases and implement both adaptation and mitigation strategies,” stated Dave Courard-Hauri, Chair, Environmental Science and Policy Program, Drake University.
The Iowa Climate Statement: The Drought of 2012 was signed by one hundred and thirty-eight science faculty and research staff from 27 Iowa colleges and universities. The statement focused on the prospects for future Iowa extreme weather events like the 2012 drought and the extreme flooding that preceded it.
Scientists from across Iowa issued a statement re‐affirming that climate change is real and urging candidates to acknowledge the science of climate change and present appropriate policy responses.
Climate Science Educators Forum
The UI’s Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research – along with other universities and other institutions across the state – sponsors the annual Iowa Climate Science Educators Forum. The event provides professors, researchers, students, and others the opportunity to discuss the most up-to-date climate-related research as well as methods for engaging students when teaching about climate change.
3rd Annual Iowa Climate Science Educators Forum – October 9, 2015
Photos by KC McGinnis
More than thirty scientists, students, and educators attended the third annual Iowa Climate Science Educators Forum at Des Moines University on Friday.
Iowa State University agronomy professor Brian Hornbuckle was the first to present, discussing ways to teach about the effects of greenhouse gas.
“The greenhouse effect is such an essential part of climate change [and] we need to make sure we teach about it correctly,” said Hornbuckle.
Hornbuckle teaches Introduction to Weather and Climate at Iowa State, a roughly 300-student lecture consisting mostly of freshmen. He said his focus is to dispel incorrect notions that his students may have about the greenhouse effect.
“The greenhouse effect is both a good and a bad thing,” he said. “We wouldn’t be able to live here if we didn’t have the greenhouse effect and I think it’s surprising for students to hear that. It’s a good thing and it’s essential for life but too much of a good thing can be bad.”
One of Horkbuckle’s teaching techniques is through the use of song. He changed the lyrics of Journey’s “Wheel in the Sky” to “The radiators in the sky keep on burning” as a catchy way to get through to his students.
David Courard-Hauri, an associate professor of environmental science and policy, discussed his Science and Policy of Climate course at Drake University. The course focuses on the intersection of science, social, and political issues in regard to climate.
“The question is how do we teach scale and feasibility?” asked Courard-Hauri.
One component of the course is a role-playing exercise in which students take on the role of a different country or interest group and how they would approach climate-related policy. Students use quantitative data to come up with policy suggestions which helps them to identify the scale of certain measures as well as the potential costs and costs savings of such measures.
“The idea is to encourage them to look for win-win scenarios,” said Courard-Hauri. “I feel they get a better sense of just doing a little good isn’t enough to get us where we want to go and that’s the main idea I try to get across.”
Grinnell College political science professor Wayne Moyer discussed his Applied Policy Analysis Climate Change course, which is composed of about 20 undergraduates. Students are required to read two books: Why We Disagree About Climate Change by Mike Hulme and Global Warming Gridlock by David G. Victor. The courses focuses on the intersection of science, economics, and politics. Moyer emphasized that scientific research is crucial for policy change.
“When you don’t know things exactly that creates policy problems,” he said.
The course also focuses on obstacles for implementing policies to address climate change, such as reasons for why people disagree about the issue usually involving their values, beliefs, and fears. One assignment requires students to persuade a skeptic that climate change is real. Moyer said that one of his students, who now serves on a republican congressional staff in Washington D.C., was the lone skeptic in his class and that this student brought an interesting perspective to the course.
“He listened to people on the other side and contributed lot. It was a real asset,” said Moyer.
The morning part of the forum was rounded out with a series of shorter presentations. University of Iowa chemical engineering professor Charlie Stainer discussed his upper-level undergrad course, Green Chemical and Energy Technologies. University of Dubuque environmental chemistry professor Adam Hoffman discussed carbon dioxide and ocean acidification and effective techniques for teaching these concepts to students. The morning session concluded with a presentation from DMACC representatives who discussed ways in which their campuses have taken measures to reduce their carbon footprint.
Representatives from eight different Iowa colleges and universities attended the event including University of Iowa, Iowa State University, University of Northern Iowa, Drake University, University of Dubuque, Grinnell College, Des Moines Area Community College, and Southwest Community College.
2nd Annual Iowa Climate Science Educators Forum – November 4, 2014
Photos by KC McGinnis
The 2014 Iowa Climate Science Educators Forum took place on the University of Iowa Oakdale Campus in Coralville on Friday, October 31. The 2nd annual event was attended by approximately 50 climate and health experts from across the state.
Chris Anderson – Assistant Director Climate Science Program at Iowa State University – was the first to present at Friday’s event as he discussed the impact of climate change in Iowa.
“Climate change in Iowa is different from climate change on TV,” he said.
One example of this is the frequency of spring and summer rainfall combinations. There were approximately seven instances of spring and summer rainfall combinations between 1893 and 1980 compared to five instances between 2008 and 2014.
Mary Spokec – research geologist and program coordinator for IOWATER – along with David Osterberg – Associate Clinical Professor of Environmental Policy in the University of Iowa’s Department of Occupational and Environmental Health – took the stage next to discuss water quality issues related to climate change. They said part of the reason for toxic algal blooms which can lead to water contamination is because there are no national standards for algal cyanotoxins.
This issue can be particularly problematic in Iowa other agricultural states where nitrogen and phosphorus can runoff of fields and into waterways which exacerbates the growth of hazardous algal blooms such as blue green algae. Extreme weather associated with climate change has also affected these algal growths. According to weekly monitoring of 38 state-owned beaches, there were 46 water quality advisories during 2013 and 2014 compared to seven in 2011 and two in 2010.
Peter Thorne – head of the UI’s Department of Occupational and Environmental Health – presented next about climate-induced air quality issues affecting Iowans. Molds such as Aspergillus and Penicillium can grow on damp wood in houses and other structures that sustain flood damage. This can lead to a range of pulmonary conditions including mold allergies, asthma, inflammation of mucous membranes, Katrina cough, and Alveolitis. Climate change has also been attributed to more extreme weather events such as heavy rain falls which can lead to flooding.
Increased carbon dioxide levels, hotter temperatures, and a longer growing season (each of which can at least partially be attributed to climate change) is causing poison ivy plants to be more potent. Other allergenic plants have also seen increases in potency as well as an expanded range because conditions attributed to climate change.
Yogesh Shah – Associate Dean of Global Health at Des Moines University – discussed how has climate change has effected disease-carrying insect populations.
“This is the most deadly animal around,” Shah said of mosquitoes, adding that the disease-carrying insects have killed more humans than all other animals combined.
Approximately 600,000 deaths occur each year because of mosquitoes and reported cases of malaria are the greatest they’ve been since 1971. A relatively unheard of disease known as Chikungunya is on the rise, particularly in areas of Africa, India, China, and other parts of southeast Asia. Around 750,000 cases of Chikungunya have been reported in Caribbean and some cases have moved as far north into Florida and other parts of the U.S.
Two cases of Chikungunya has been reported in Iowa by people who contracted the disease while traveling. West Nile Virus is also carried by mosquitoes and in 2002 there were cases of either human or non-human WNV reported in every county in Iowa. Warmer temperatures and a longer growing season have also led to greater numbers of longer-living mosquitoes.
Peter Thorne concluded the morning session by discussing mental health affects caused by increased heat and particularly warmer nighttime temperatures. The group then broke for lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon participating in a public health tracking portal presented by environmental epidemiologists Tim Wickam and Rob Walker from the Iowa Department of Public Health.
Many of the public health and environmental issues discussed at Iowa Climate Science Educators Forum were included in the Iowa Climate Statement 2014: Impacts on the Health of Iowans.
Inaugural Iowa Climate Science Educators Forum – October 18, 2013
CGRER Annual Report
Since 1997, the Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research has released an annual report detailing outreach, education, research, international efforts, and other news. Click on the thumbnails below to access the annual report for its respective year.
IoWatch was the official newsletter for the Center for Global and Regional Environmental research from 1994 to 2011. Click on the thumbnails below to access the IoWatch newsletter for its respective year.