Iowa City Groups Use Grant Money to Reduce Carbon Emissions


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | August 23, 2021

In July, 2021 seven projects in Iowa City were given $60,000 to split to go towards climate action. This week some groups are starting to use their money for climate projects. One group, the Iowa City Domestic Violence Intervention Program, put their money towards installing solar panels. 

Iowa City Domestic Violence Intervention Program currently has $31,000 from the city along with the Rotary Club. If they raise $36,000 they will be able to prevent the emission of 16.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide. Considering carbon dioxide is a main contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, this would be very helpful in reducing the risks of climate change. 

The Iowa City Bike Library also received $10,000 from the city grant. They are using their money to update doors and windows to bring in more natural light, this way they will be able to use less artificial light. The Iowa City Bike Library has the goal of being carbon free in five years. Grants like these help them accomplish their goal. 

Iowa City council approved the use of this money in the 2021 fiscal budget. Grants like these help businesses, nonprofits and schools lower their carbon emissions and reduce the risk of climate change in our community. 

Reynolds’ carbon panel omits environmental groups, activists


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | June 24, 2021

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds appointed a task force for carbon sequestration on Tuesday; the group is void of representatives and activists from environmental groups who study the removal of the greenhouse gas.

The task force will identify and examine different strategies for the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere that will be beneficial for Iowa’s economy and long-term sustainability efforts. Current members include representatives from the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, agricultural companies, state agencies, and biofuel interests. Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig is the vice chairman of the group. The task force was created by an executive order.

In a statement, Reynolds said she hopes the task force will have policy recommendations prepared for next year’s legislative session. She said Iowa is in a strong position to take part in the growing nationwide goal for a more carbon-free economy, specifically pointing out the state’s existing supply chain.

When asked by Iowa Capital Dispatch why there were no environmental groups on the task force, Reynolds spokesman Pat Garrett said any person or group is able to apply for a spot on the working group. The group is currently made up of 20 members.

Carbon-Capturing Pipelines are Being Proposed in Iowa


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Josie Taylor | June 14, 2021

A Texas based company called Navigator CO2 plans to build pipelines across Iowa that can capture carbon dioxide emissions from ethanol, fertilizer and other industrial plants. Iowa’s Bruce Rastetter’s Summit Agricultural Group has also put out plans to capture carbon emission. CEO of Navigator Matt Vining, along with president of Summit Ag Investors, Justin Kirchhoff, did an interview with the Des Moines Register.

Both companies have the same goal of stopping carbon dioxide emissions from reaching the atmosphere. This would ideally stop carbon dioxide emissions from contributing to climate change. The companies will do this by liquefying the carbon dioxide, and then injecting it into a rock formation under the ground. 

Vining told the Des Moines Register that once the carbon dioxide is injected into the rock formation, it will be there permanently. Kirchhoff said their project can cut carbon emissions from ethanol plants in half. 

Vining commented on the controversial nature of pipelines. In the past, oil and gas pipelines have been opposed by many, including Indigious American communities. Vining this is different because, “Capturing CO2 from the environment is in the public’s best interest … it’s a public need”.

Neither company has an exact layout for where the pipelines will be. 

Are We Already Past the Point of No Return for Climate Change?


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Nicole Welle | November 16, 2020

A new study found that global temperatures may continue to rise for hundreds of years even after humans completely cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Authors of the study, which was published Thursday in the British Journal Scientific Reports, wrote that the only way to stop global warming would be to eliminate human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and find a way to extract huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the air, according to an article in USA Today.

The scientists used a model to study the effect of greenhouse gas emission reductions on the Earth’s climate from the year 1850 to 2500. They then created projections of global temperatures and sea level rises. The model showed that cutting greenhouse gas emissions at any point in the future will not be enough if it is the only tool humans employ to combat rising temperatures and sea levels.

As the burning of fossil fuels release gases like methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, global temperatures increase. This causes Arctic ice and carbon-containing permafrost to melt, a process that releases even more carbon into the atmosphere and reduces the ability of Earth’s surface to reflect sunlight. Human action triggered these processes, and they will continue to warm the earth unless humans capture carbon in the atmosphere and make the Earth’s surface brighter, according to the study’s authors.

This study was an important thought experiment, but some environmental experts are skeptical about the accuracy of its results. Penn State University meteorologist Michael Mann said that the computer model used was too simple and failed to accurately represent large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns that could affect the results.

Regardless of the results’ accuracy, this study still reflects on the importance of finding ways to combat climate change even after global emissions reach net zero. The authors also urge other scientists to follow up and expand on their work.

This week at COP24: U.S. climate carelessness more apparent than ever


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The U.S. promoted coal at the COP24 summit on Monday (flickr).

Julia Poska | December 13, 2018

Of the 58 largest greenhouse gas emitters globally, the United States ranks second to last for its efforts to combat climate change in a new report published Monday at the COP24 Climate Summit in Katowice, Poland.

The 2019 Climate Change Performance Index evaluates countries’ advancements in energy production, use and policy to put pressure on those falling behind. The only country with a worse score than the U.S. is Saudi Arabia.

According to the report, the U.S.’s greatest failures are at a national level, thanks to President Trump’s denial of man-made climate change and his intention to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. U.S. policy still favors fossil fuels, though individual states and cities have made some progress in spite of that position.

The nation brought its pro-fossil fuel attitude along to the summit, and hosted an event called “US innovative technologies spur economic dynamism,”there Monday to promote supposedly “clean” uses of coal, oil and natural gas . Australia, ranked just four spots above the U.S. in the index, was the only nation to support the event, but the Australian climate change policy advisor disagreed and called the event a “slap in the face” to neighboring Pacific Islands that are desperately threatened by the rising sea level, according to the Guardian.

The top countries in the index, Sweden and Morocco, have made greater progress in reducing emissions, but are still not quite on target to keep warming under 1.5°C, as the International panel on Climate Change has deemed necessary to protect the planet’s inhabitants and resources. These nations rank “High”, so as of now the top three spots on the index, marked as “Very High,” remain empty.

 

World and industry leaders talk climate at COP24


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The opening plenary at COP24 in Katowice, Poland (flickr via UNclimatechange). 

Julia Poska| December 7th, 2018

Diplomats and industry leaders from over 200 countries gathered in Katowice, Poland this week for COP24,  a global summit on climate change and carbon reductions that will continue through next week.

The Katowice summit is meant to build on the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement, signed by most of the world’s countries at COP21 three years ago. The attendees hope to now agree on standards for reporting carbon cuts and emissions and to push agreed-upon reductions even further in light of recent scientific reports that climate change is moving faster than anticipated.

Most of these targets are still up in the air and will continue to be negotiated in coming days between exhibitions, presentations, workshops and more. Non-governmental bodies have made some declarations already, though, including one signed by over 40 global corporations and environmental groups urging delegates to make firm, clear guidelines for reporting and stating their commitment to supporting carbon reduction measures.

Another non-governmental figure, acclaimed naturalist David Attenborough, narrator and writer of BBC docu-series Life and Blue Planet, is holding the new “people’s seat” to represent the general public at the talks. He spoke Monday on the urgency of tackling climate change, calling it our “greatest threat in thousands of years.”

 

 

Climate change and soil: sink or source?


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Peatlands, or bogs, are wetlands where partially decomposed vegetation accumulates saturated in water. The soil is very rich and productive and contains huge amounts of carbon (flickr). 

Julia Poska| November 29, 2018

The world’s soils hold massive amounts of carbon from decomposed plants and animals. In this way the soil acts as a sink, storing carbon that could otherwise end up in the atmosphere, but soil is a source of carbon emissions.

Two studies published this month highlight just how helpful and harmful the the soil’s carbon storage capacity might be in the face of climate change.

The first, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencesexamined the changing role of peatlands, also known as bogs or mires, in the carbon cycle. According to author Qianlai Zhuang of Purdue University, peatlands cover about 3 percent of the Earth’s surface but contain 30 percent of soil carbon. This major sink, though, has begun to release large amounts of carbon, too.

When peatlands are drained for human uses like agriculture or mining, they release some of that carbon into the air. The rate of carbon loss is predicted to increase with climate change, even for untouched peatlands.

Northern-hemisphere peatlands in Canada, Siberia and Southeast Asia have already begun releasing significant amounts of carbon, but Zhuang and PhD candidate Sirui Wang found that Amazonian peatlands may soon follow suit, according to a Purdue University media release. The researchers estimate that by the end of the century, peatlands in that area could release an amount of carbon equal to 5 percent of current annual emissions worldwide.

The second study, published in Nature Climate Change, found increased capacity for carbon storage deep within the soil. Much of the soils carbon is stored in a dissolved form; the carbon leaches downwards in the water and attaches to minerals over 6-feet underground.

Little is known about this method of storage, but Washington State University researcher Marc Kramer and Oliver Chadwick from the University of California Santa Barbara have looked at it closely and believe humanity could take advantage of the process to bury more atmospheric carbon deep inside the earth. Unfortunately, they believe climate change will limit this capacity in tropical rainforests, currently the best locations for dissolved carbon storage.

Check out our 2018 Iowa Climate Statement to learn more about the impacts of climate change right here at home.

Smog-producing air pollution declining more slowly


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Catalytic converters have decreased the amount of carbon monoxide emitted by cars dramatically since they were first introduced in the 1970s. (Chris Keating/flickr)

Jenna Ladd | May 1, 2018

A new study found that levels of two primary pollutants in the U.S. atmosphere have not been declining as rapidly during recent years as they once were.

Researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) studied satellite data and ground level measurements of two smog-forming pollutants: nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide. Levels of these air pollutants decreased dramatically following the implementation of the Clean Air Act in the 1970s. Requirements of that act pushed automakers and energy-producers to develop new technology which curbed the emissions of these two pollutants.

The study found that concentration of these two pollutants in the atmosphere decreased by seven percent each year between 2005 and 2009. However, from 2011 through 2015, the pollutants’ levels only shrunk by 1.7 percent annually.

Helen Worden is a scientist at NCAR and one of the study’s authors. She said to Phys Org, “Although our air is healthier than it used to be in the 80s and 90s, air quality in the U.S. is not progressing as quickly as we thought. The gains are starting to slow down.”

The study noted that the slower decrease in carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides was especially severe in the eastern part of the U.S. This finding dispels notions that the slower pace can be attributed to traveling air pollution from countries like China. The positive news is that the slower decline in carbon monoxide, which is primarily emitted by vehicles, is likely due to the fact that major strides have already been made to reduce vehicle emissions. In short, clean air technology related to cars may have reached a kind of plateau.

This study was funded by NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the University of Colorado Boulder, and the National Science Foundation. The full journal article can be found in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Carbon emissions on the rise after years of stagnation


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Carbon emissions increased in 2017 for the first time in years. (Sunny Vhaii/flickr)

Jenna Ladd | March 22, 2018

Global carbon emissions were higher than ever in 2017 according to Global Energy and CO2 Status Report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) based in Paris.

Carbon emissions reached a record 32.5 giggatons last year after remaining stable for the three previous years. This figure can be thought of as putting 170 million additional cars on the road. The spike in carbon emissions has been attributed to two factors. First, global energy demand increased by 2.1 percent last year. This is double the average 0.9 percent increase over the previous five years. About seventy percent of this demand was met by emission producing fossil fuels like oil, natural gas and coal. Second, energy efficiency improvements slowed down during 2017.

“The significant growth in global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2017 tells us that current efforts to combat climate change are far from sufficient,” Fatih Birol, IEA’s executive director, said to Reuters. He continued, “For example, there has been a dramatic slowdown in the rate of improvement in global energy efficiency as policy makers have put less focus in this area.”

Scientists say the carbon emissions need to peak soon and then decrease dramatically by 2020 in order to meet the international climate goal of keep average global temperature rise lower than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

Although carbon emissions increased most places, the United States, United Kingdom, Mexico and Japan all saw reductions in carbon emissions. Surprisingly, U.S. carbon emissions fell by 0.5 percent, more than any other country.

On The Radio – Cumulative CO2 levels reach record high


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Carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere when fossil fuels, like coal, are combusted. (Kym Farnik/flickr)

Jenna Ladd | November 20, 2017

This week’s On The Radio segment discusses how carbon dioxide levels soared to record highs in 2016. 

Transcript: Carbon dioxide (CO2) levels rose to a record-high during 2016 according to the World Meteorological Organization.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The organization measures carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases at 51 sites around the globe. Average accumulated CO2 levels in Earth’s atmosphere reached 403.3 parts per million last year due to human activity and an El Niño weather event, which brought drought to much of the world’s CO2-capturing vegetation. Last year’s increase of CO2 was 50 percent higher than average year-to-year increases over the last ten years.

Scientists say that Earth has not had the same concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere since about three to five million years ago, when temperatures were two to three degrees Celsius warmer and sea levels were several dozen feet higher.

World Meteorological Organization scientists warn that greenhouse gas emissions should be cut drastically and immediately to avoid “dangerous temperature increases” by the end of the century.

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

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