Officials save Lake Powell as Drought threatens production of hydroelectric power


West USA - Lake Powell
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Elyse Gabor | May 10, 2022

The artificial reservoir, Lake Powell, seeks help from U.S. officials to boost water levels. A prolonged drought has dried up water levels, threatening hydroelectric power production for the Western states. 

The Bureau of Reclamation is releasing 500,000 acre-feet of water. The water is coming from Flaming Gorge Reservoir. An acre-foot equals 3260,000 gallons of water and is enough to supply two houses with water for a year. 

This is the first time unprecedented measures have been taken to boost water levels. Tanya Trujillo, the Interior Department’s assistant secretary for water and science, said, “We have never taken this step before in the Colorado River Basin, but the conditions we see today and the potential risk we see on the horizon demand that we take prompt action.” 

As the second-largest reservoir in the U.S., Lake Powell was damned in the 1960s. If the lake were to dry up 23 more feet, the megawatt plant wouldn’t be able to supply millions of people in the western U.S. states with electricity.

In the past two decades, this has been the driest period ever recorded. The drought is believed to be caused by climate change. 

Why Climate Change Makes It Harder to Fight Fire With Fire


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Simone Garza | May 9, 2022

The increase of climate change is causing longer wildfires, making it difficult to plan intentional fires.

As the summer season is approaching, there are extreme wildfires that have been reported in Nebraska, Arizona and New Mexico. New Mexico has recently been reported of a wildfire that passed over 165,000 acres. The extensions of wildfires are due to longer and drier summer seasons, drier soils, and warmer springs. Wildfires tend to have both pros and cons.

The pros of wildfires are that it permits nutrients to return to the soil, and has a part in plant reproduction. The cons of wildfires, is that it can release carbon dioxide in the air, as it can worsen climate change. The continuous spread of wildfires can lead to smog, creating issues for people that inhale the pollutants. Inhaling wildfire pollutants can cause inflammation, respiratory infections, and adjust the immune system.

Climate change has made it hard to schedule intentional wildfires, a method which assists the removal of dead tree limbs, leaves, and knock down invasive plants.

Last year, the United States Forest Service used controlled fire over 1.8 million acres of federal land. The agency is planning to tend to 50 million acres, both including national and federal lands, within the next decade. 

Spring corn planting slowed by low soil temperatures


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Eleanor Hildebrandt | May 4, 2022

As farmers prepare to plant their corn crop this spring they are running into some issues because of low soil temperatures.

Following cold and wet weather in Iowa, the state’s corn planting season has been significantly delayed. The pushing back of planting shortens the optimal yield window for the year. Only 9 percent of Iowa’s corn crop has been planted according to a May 2 Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. The average by this time of year is 42 percent of the crop.

State Climatologist Justin Glisan told Iowa Capital Dispatch early planting this year was first stalled in April because of low temperatures five degrees below average. He said 2022 had one of Iowa’s top 15 coldest winters.

Soil temperatures need to be at least 50 degrees to plant corn seed that is likely to sprout. Soil temps have mainly stayed in the 40s this spring. The lack of planted crops will impact supply moving forward this year.

Large spending increase for tribal, climate programs expected from U.S. Interior secretary


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Eleanor Hildebrandt | April 29, 2022

The U.S. Interior Department is planning to ask the House of Representative to increase funding to a tribal programs and climate resiliency efforts this week.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland will ask the spending panel to increase the fiscal 2023 budget for the department to set ambitious but achievable goals, according to written testimony for the budget request.

““Working together, we have the opportunity to invest now to strengthen our Nation for all Americans, protect our environment, and ensure our future generations continue to not only enjoy, but improve our way of life,” Haaland wrote in the testimony.

The current proposed request would increase spending on Indian Affairs programs by almost 25 percent. The sum would become $4.5 billion and would focus on sovereignty and equity opportunities for tribes across the country. The funding would also spend billions on delivering safe, clean water to tribe. The request will come in tandem with an increase in funds for the transition to renewable energy usage in the U.S. The department wants $1.4 billion for Bureau of Reclamation water projects to help with worsening droughts and $1.2 billion for wildfire management, among other spending. The administration asked for a total $61 million for tribal climate resilience programs.

New study finds cacti face a greater extinction risk by 2050


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Eleanor Hildebrandt | April 22, 2022

As the planet grows warmer, 60 percent of cactus species are at a greater risk of extinction by 2050.

While the earth gets hotter and drier, a new study found cacti are set to be in more danger than they already are. Poaching, habitat destruction, and other human-caused threats to the plants already make them one of the world’s most endangered organisms, according to The New York Times. Cacti thrive in a variety of environments, including rainforests and high altitudes, not just deserts. The study looked at a quarter of known cactus species and found many of types could experience significant declines in the land that is hospitable for them if the planet continues to warm up as it has in recent history.

The study, however, does not account for any extreme events. No wildfires or droughts were factored in based on where certain species are typically found. Researchers touted the new research as “pivotal” for showing what cacti could look like in the near and far future.

Biden administration restores infrastructure regulations requiring rigorous environmental review


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Eleanor Hildebrandt | April 21, 2022

President Joe Biden and his administration restored federal regulations that ensure rigorous environmental reviews of infrastructure projects on Tuesday. Pipeline, highway, and oil projects all must complete the reviews.

The Trump administration previous scaled back the regulations to fast-track projects and generate jobs. The National Environmental Policy Act Implementing Regulations Revisions were finalized this week and take effect in May. White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory said restoring the community safeguards will reduce conflict and ensure projects are built properly the first time.

“Patching these holes in the environmental review process will help projects get built faster, be more resilient and provide greater benefits to people who live nearby,” she said.

Environmental activists are touting the rule change, according to the Associated Press, for its restoration of previous regulations and keeping the environment healthy for the foreseeable future. Leslie Fields, the Sierra Club’s national director of policy, advocacy and legal affairs, said the restoration of clear runes plays a critical role in protecting the environment. Critics say the new regulations will slow down major infrastructure projects and the jobs associated with them.

Hundreds killed as flooding inflicts ‘untold havoc’ in South Africa


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Simone Garza | April 18, 2022

On April 13, nearly two feet of rain from a sluggishly severe thunderstorm killed about 400 people in South Africa. The storm started on April 9 and continued through April 12. 

A flash flood is an unexpected local flood caused by large amounts of rain. Floods can also heighten the transfer rate of waterborne infections, like hepatitis A, dengue fever, and West Nile fever. Flash floods can destroy crops, minimize livestock, and carry pollutants. 

The Province of KwaZulu-Natal reported over 240 schools were affected by the flood. Officials said more than 6,000 shacks and houses were either damaged or destroyed.The excessive amount of rainfall caused large amounts of mud, debris, and trees to collapse into sensitive communities. With over 900 cell phone towers down, communication within this district was challenging.

Although the rainfall has finished, residents that live in ground level regions have been encouraged to relocate to elevated areas due to the potential risk of rivers increasing. 

AccuWeather Lead International Forecaster Jason Nicholls, said the erratic rainfall accumulated a storm close to the southeastern coast of South Africa. Forecasters do not see an optimistic outcome as the search of survivors continues. 

“Many of the same areas could have another round of heavy rain and flooding through this weekend,” Nicholls said. Although the rain is unlikely to pass levels of the previous system, Nicholls said the possibility of extra rain will be threatening due to unsteady ground.

Methane in atmosphere hits new high, rising at fastest rate recorded


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Simone Garza | April 11, 2022

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported the amount of methane is rapidly increasing. This is an air pollutant and greenhouse gas resulting in 1 million premature deaths yearly. 

Methane is a colorless and odorless flammable gas. While it is an important element of natural gas, methane emissions are responsible for 30 percent of climate change. Methane emission is associated with raising livestock and organic matter decaying.

Greenhouse gasses ,like carbon dioxide, are more potent and a secondary contributor to global warming, but break down faster and are temporary. The greenhouse gasses absorb infrared heat in the form of heat. Greenhouse gasses can also be released into the atmosphere when oil, coal, and natural gas are mined and transferred. 

On April 7, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the atmospheric methane levels for 2021 have spiked 17 parts per billion. 2021 has the biggest recorded annual increase since the development of systematic measurements in 1983.

The Earth System Science Data journal found human activities made up about 60 percent of global methane emissions last year alone. In 2019, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported about 18 percent  were responsible for all greenhouse gas emissions. 

Jae Edmonds, a chief scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Joint Global Change Research Institute and contributor to the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, said methane symbolizes both a barrier and advantage for smoother progress to maintaining climate change. 

“It’s both good news and bad news. Its human-related sources are quite varied, many of which are relatively straightforward to tackle,” Edmonds said in an interview about the newest IPCC findings.

Farmers continue to object to carbon capture pipelines


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Eleanor Hildebrandt | April 8, 2022

More than 100 landowners gathered at the Iowa Capitol last week, speaking against three proposed carbon capture pipelines in the state.

The speakers went as far as asking legislators to add amendments to ban the use of eminent domain permanent. Environmental activists joined the group on March 29, focused on stopping the companies from taking private farmland to build sequestration pipelines. Some speakers complained about not being able to meet with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds to discuss the pipelines. Chair of the Calhoun County Democratic Party Emma Schmit told Iowa Public Radio that landowners rights are uniting rural residents.

“Everybody across the political spectrum believes in the fact that a private corporation shouldn’t be able to take your property for their own benefit without giving anything back,” she said.

Carbon sequestration pipelines aim to capture carbon dioxide emissions in an industrial process and store them underground. The goal of such projects is to curb climate change. Currently, three companies have plans to put carbon capture pipelines in Iowa: Archer-Daniel-Midlands (ADM), Summit Carbon Solutions and Navigator CO2 Ventures. The trio all plan to pipe carbon captured in the Midwest United States deep underground.

UN panel warns time is short to stop climate change


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Eleanor Hildebrandt | April 6, 2022

A new road to limiting climate change appeared from a new major scientific report from the United Nations, however it shows there is very little time to stop the effects of global warming.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change conducted the report. The document warns that countries across the globe must drastically accelerate efforts in the near future to slash coal, oil, and natural gas emissions to limit global warming in the next decade. The report once again places the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. It is projected that countries will reach that mark by the end of the decade.

Holding down warming will cause nations to work together and collectively reduce emissions by 43 percent by 2030, according to The New York Times. It also calls for the end of carbon dioxide emissions by the 2050s. While the goals are tall orders, the panel and report say it is possible for countries to make the changes necessary to limit the biggest effects of climate change.

The report was approved by 195 governments across the globe. Climate scientists are clear in the report, stating there is an extremely small margin for delay. Any additional extensions would cause global warming to go past relatively tolerable levels.