How climate change has caused a national shortage of Christmas trees


Photo by Washington State Department of Agriculture, from Flickr

Tyler Chalfant | December 24th, 2019

The U.S. has seen a shortage of Christmas trees in recent years, driving up prices and limiting options for holiday consumers. This scarcity can be attributed in part to the lingering effects of the 2008 recession, which forced many growers out of business. As Christmas trees take between 6 to 12 years to mature, it takes time for the industry to respond to shifting consumer preferences and demands.

However, the scarcity has been augmented by the effects of climate change. Drought conditions killed large amounts of trees in Oregon, the nation’s leading producer of Christmas trees, last year. This year’s floods have added to droughts as another weather condition harming newly planted saplings. Warmer temperatures in the summer and winter are worsening pressure from disease and pests, making trees less resilient. In Canada, spring frost and heavy snows have killed saplings as well.

These extreme weather patterns are likely to become more frequent and severe as a result of climate change, producing conditions that are more unpredictable and risky for farmers, including those growing Christmas trees.

Ag industry making progress on climate


17137465566_79b581ab03_c.jpg
Photo via Flickr

Julia Poska| December 13, 2019

Politico report from last week offered insight into a confidential meeting on fighting climate change with agriculture six months prior. The meeting, hosted by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance in Maryland, “represented a change” from farmers’ historic attitudes on climate, according to reporter Helena Bottemiller Evich.

The article explained that farmers have been long-resistant to discuss or adapt to climate change for several reasons, including the left-wing association of the issue (American rural communities are largely Conservative) and that farmers are often blamed for a number of environmental issues. But severe flooding and unyielding wet conditions this growing season, however, left a record number of American farmland unplanted in 2019, leading to huge financial losses for farmers. The article suggests that unfavorable weather in recent seasons may be raising farmers’ alarm.

At the June meeting, government, business and non-profit leaders in ag spoke and listened, brainstorming and sharing solutions. The host organization premiered a 5-minute video on the topic, released on Youtubein August, titled “30 Harvests” to represent the amount of time remaining to make transformative change in the industry.

The article referenced a number of farm industry climate action examples from around the country, including a climate-smart agriculture meeting at Iowa State University last month. Bottemiller Evich interviewed several Iowa farmers as well, including Ray Gaesser of Corning, who advocates for both his conservative political beliefs and sequestering carbon through row crop farming.

“Everybody I talk to, including farmers, they say ‘yeah we need to talk about this,” Gaesser told Politico. “We need to find ways to adapt to what’s going on. We’re seeing things we’re not used to seeing.”

U.N. report illuminates global ’emissions gap’


Screen Shot 2019-11-28 at 12.07.01 PM.png
Top greenhouse gas emitters, excluding land-use change emissions due to lack of reliable country-level data, Figure 2.3 a+b — The top emitters of greenhouse gases, excluding land-use change emissions due to lack of reliable on an absolute basis (left) and per capita basis (right) [via executive summary]. 
Julia Poska | November 29, 2019

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released its 10th Emissions Gap Report Tuesday. Though more countries pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions every year, the report revealed that collectively, the “gap” between where emissions are and where they should be to minimize atmospheric warming is huge.

Some  findings from the report include:

  1. Global GHG emissions have risen about 1.5% annually in the last 10 years. The U.S. leads in per capita emissions, while China’s overall emissions are nearly double those of the U.S., the second highest emitter. Trends do not indicate a “peak” in global emissions occurring anytime soon.
  2. G20 Summit members account for 78% of global emissions, and while as a whole the group of 20 countries and the E.U. is on track to exceed its 2020 emission reduction goals, several countries (including the U.S.) are actually behind on their goals.
  3. If projections hold true, global emissions in 2030 will be 60 GtCO2e. To meet a 2 degree warming goal, emissions would need to be 41 GtCO2e. For a 1.5 degree goal, 25 GtCO2e.
  4. We must triple or even quintuple reduction cuts to meet goals. The executive summary  reads, “Had serious climate action begun in 2010, the cuts required per year to meet the projected emissions levels for 2°C and 1.5°C would only have been 0.7 per cent and 3.3 per cent per year on average. However, since this did not happen, the required cuts in emissions are now 2.7 per cent per year from 2020 for the 2°C goal and 7.6 per cent per year on average for the 1.5°C goal. “

The report suggests a number of potential “entry points” for transformational change required to implement solutions, as well as a discussion about the “potential for energy transition” and energy efficiency. Read more here.

 

Iowa Climate Statement 2019 released today with sobering extreme heat warnings


 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Julia Poska | September 18, 2019

Today top Iowa climate scientists released the Iowa Climate Statement 2019: Dangerous Heat Event Will Become More Frequent and Severe, warning Iowans and Midwesterners of the serious heat-related dangers the climate crisis is creating in our region.

Read the full statement here. Watch the press conference here.

The report has been backed by 216 faculty and researchers from 38 Iowa colleges and universities. Based on the most up‐to‐date scientific sources, the statement makes clear the urgency of preparing for dangerously hot summers in coming decades.

Highlights from the statement 

  • By midcentury, temperatures in Iowa will exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit 67 days per year, compared to a 23‐day average in recent decades.
  • By midcentury, the average daily high temperature for each year’s hottest five‐day period will be 98 degrees, compared to 92 degrees in recent decades.
  •  Once per decade, five‐day average high temperature will be 105 degrees.
  • Extreme heat is the leading weather‐related cause of death in the U.S.. Low‐income neighborhoods, the elderly, outdoor workers (especially construction and farm labor) and domestic animals are especially vulnerable.
  •  Confined livestock are at increased risk for death and widespread productivity loses. Producers will need to adjust their operations to deal with extreme heat events.
  • Adaptations to increasing heat waves will require expanded disaster preparedness, increased energy use and curtailment of outdoor work and recreation during times of extreme heat.

The UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research has released annual climate statements since 2011. These statements, vetted by Iowa’s top experts, place pivotal climate change research into an Iowa‐specific context, encouraging preparedness and resilience in the face of a climate crisis.

Read the full statement here. Watch the press conference here.

Hurricane Dorian highlights growing vulnerability of islanders


Screen Shot 2019-09-03 at 9.20.33 PM.png
This map from NOAA shows Dorian passing over the Bahamas, forecasting its trajectory as of 11 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 31. 

Julia Poska | September 4, 2019

In recent years, the Caribbean islands have been repeatedly pummeled by unusually intense hurricanes. In 2017, Hurricanes Maria and Irma virtually destroyed Caribbean islands Dominicana and Barbuda. Puerto Rico is still recovering from devastation that same year. 

This week, Hurricane Dorian, the second strongest Atlantic storm on record, hit hard in the Bahamas. An aerial video from NBC reveals widespread flooding and buildings reduced to rubble on Abaco Island.

Once these islands recover, spending billions to do so, they can expect to see more intense storms in the future, as climate change increases the impacts of hurricanes. Though mitigation can be at least partially achieved through social and infrastructural means, many islands lack the financial means to implement them, as well as ample time between storms. 

Evacuation orders protect human life, but accessing transportation by air or water can be expensive, leaving inland shelters as the best option for many. In the Bahamans, 24 shelters were established inland on Abaco and Grand Bahamas Island, with 73,000 residents at risk, according to the Washington Post. The Bahamasair airline offered discounted flights off the island.

As climate change progresses, rising sea levels will make coastal flooding a permanent feature of island life, as well,  reducing inhabitable land and threatening freshwater resources within the islands. Just two degrees of warming would put Bahamian capital island Nassau and many smaller Caribbean islands almost completely underwater (see this map from Climate Central), forcing residents to relocate as “climate refugees.”

 

 

 

Iowa City declares a climate crisis


Photo from Wikimedia Commons, American007

Tyler Chalfant | August 7th, 2019

The Iowa City Council unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday night declaring a climate crisis. The resolution set new targets for the city’s carbon emissions and directed the City Manager’s office to provide a report within 100 days, recommending ways to meet those targets.

The Council approved a Climate Action and Adaptation Plan last September, setting carbon emissions targets that matched the Paris Agreement. Then in October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a report on the need to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. To meet that goal, human-caused emissions would need to fall 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, and reach net zero by 2050. 

Activists around the world have been pushing for cities and local governments to declare a climate emergency as a first step towards mobilizing to combat global warming. The movement has grown momentum in the past few months, with hundreds of cities, as well as a few regional and national governments, declaring climate emergencies. In July, members of the U.S. Congress introduced a national Climate Emergency declaration, which several representatives, senators, and presidential candidates have endorsed. Iowa City is the first city in Iowa to pass such a resolution.

Iowa City students regularly walked out of class this spring to demand local action on climate change. Mayor Jim Throgmorton claims that their advocacy, in addition to the IPCC report, contributed to this move by city leaders.

Changes in sea level could be more significant than ever before


Accelerated melting ice and changes in the global temperatures could cause the sea levels to rise| Photo by Jaymantri on Pexels.com

Sthefany Nóbriga| May 23, 2019

Due to the accelerated melting ice in Greenland and Antarctica, researchers believe that worldwide sea levels could increase much more than anticipated. 

On 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that, global waters would rise by between 52cm and 98cm by 2100. However, a new study confirms that changes in the global temperatures could cause the sea levels to double or triple that amount.  

The IPCC report in 2013 only considered a 17-83% of the possibilities of sea level rising, where areas, this new study covers 5-95% estimates—which means this study looks at a broader range of results, according to BBC news. 

Researchers believe that if there are no significant reductions in emissions, we would see global waters rising between 62cm and 238cm by 2100. According to these studies, the earth could lose an equivalent area of land to 1.79 million square kilometers—approximately the size of Libya.

 If this becomes a reality, this could have severe implications to the planet, and hundreds of millions of people could be displaced. Many of the affected areas would be major cities such as London, New York, and Shanghai as well as large swathes of Bangladesh, where it will be nearly impossible for people to live in. 

Researchers remain hopeful and believe that there is still time to prevent these scenarios from occuring. The governments around the world must take action to inform the people and bring awareness to the rising levels of emissions.