Patagonia owner donates $3 billion company to fight climate change


Via Flickr

Grace Smith | September 16, 2022

The founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, is giving up ownership of his 50-year-old company. The outdoor clothing brand’s profits of $3 billion will be donated to organizations and projects to fight the climate crisis. 

Chouinard, who gained popularity by alpine climbing in Yosemite National Park, announced his relinquishment Wednesday and released a statement on Patagonia’s website

“Instead of ‘going public,’ you could say we’re ‘going purpose,’” the website letter said.  “Instead of extracting value from nature and transforming it into wealth for investors, we’ll use the wealth Patagonia creates to protect the source of all wealth.”

Patagonia has been actively fighting climate change for years – using less harmful materials to the environment, becoming B Corp certified by meeting high social and environmental performance standards, and changing the company’s purpose in 2018 to a theme of saving the planet.

Chouinard said Patagonia is now owned by Holdfast Collective, a trust dedicated to protecting nature and fighting the climate crisis. An annual dividend of $100 million will be given to the Holdfast Collective depending on the year’s profits. 

“Despite its immensity, the Earth’s resources are not infinite, and it’s clear we’ve exceeded its limits,” Chouinard’s letter said.  “But it’s also resilient. We can save our planet if we commit to it.”

Drought conditions in Iowa are projected to cut soybean harvest


Via Flickr

Grace Smith | September 6, 2022

Areas in Iowa are experiencing harsh drought conditions with little rain, per the U.S. Drought Monitor on Sept. 1. Iowa’s summer drought conditions spilling into September presents the problem of cutting soybean harvest later in the month. 

The report shows that 40.07 percent of Iowa experiencing a moderate drought, up 1.2 percent from last week. 19.27 of Iowa is dealing with severe drought conditions, and 2.08 percent of the state is in an extreme drought. The estimated population in Iowa undergoing drought is 1,040,243 people.

Along with drought affecting people, the heat is taking a toll on crops. On average, soybean yields are projected to drop to 58 bushels per acre this year, compared to 62 bushels in 2021, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report released Aug. 12. Harvest is expected to decrease 4.7 percent from 2021.

Despite the decline, Iowa is still projected to be named the second largest soybean producer by harvesting 592.8 million bushels in the fall; a decrease of 29.1 million from last year.Despite heavy rainfall last week up to four inches in areas across Iowa, portions of the state in the southeast received less than half an inch, and remain dry. Southeast Iowa has about 10 percent of adequate soil moisture for crops. To compare, in northeast Iowa, 90 percent of the soil has adequate water for crops.

Six months of Russia-Ukraine War takes toll on environment


Via Pexels

Grace Smith | August 26, 2022

About half a year ago, the Russia-Ukraine War started, which also formed a large environmental toll on Ukraine. Ukraine is one of Europe’s most industrial countries with coal mines, chemical plants, etc. The constant shelling over areas where these industries sit is harming nearby rivers and soil, jeopardizing its biodiversity. 

When Russian shelling exploded near certain Ukrainian industrial sites in July, the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Ukraine reported that those shellings caused a fire to release toxic substances that could easily be carried by wind through a vast amount of land. 

In addition to shellings, over 5,000 Moscow military wrecks have occurred over the six months, which the Ukrainian Nature Conservation Group (UNCG) said can continue to leak fuel after the wreck. “Russian tanks can carry between 500 and 1,600 litres of fuel,” UNGC told France 24, a news publication. “These contain lead and other heavy metals, polycyclic arenes found in all fossil fuels and a number of other volatile organic compounds.”

UNCG released a list of native plants, once preserved, that are now disappearing or threatened because of the passage of Russian vehicles on Ukrainian land. In addition, at least 37,867 fires caused by combat have covered over 247,000 acres of land, destroying 82,000 acres of protected land. 

Not only is Ukraine hurting from the war, but India is experiencing an increase in soybean and maize prices. As of March, corn pricing increased 25 percent as of January, challenging the ability to feed livestock like poultry.

Hawaii received final coal shipment before shutting down last coal-powered plant


Via Flickr

Grace Smith | August 8, 2022

Hawaii received its final coal shipment on July 27 before shutting down its last coal-powered power plant, pushing the state closer to its goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2045

180 MW West Oahu Plant, the single largest electricity source in Oahu, is set to shut down in September, when its 30-year purchase agreement expires.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige went to Twitter to express his excitement for this step in history. “This is a huge step forward in Hawaiʻi’s transition to clean energy. In its time, coal was an important resource for Hawaii and I’d like to thank the workers who have run our last remaining coal plant.”

Like Hawaii, other states are pushing for net-zero emissions or 100 percent carbon-free electricity by midcentury, including Rhode Island, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Oregon, as of 2021. 

Common renewable energy sources including wind, solar power, and biogas can generate energy that will eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and other types of air pollution. In addition, the economy will develop, including jobs in manufacturing and installation, like in San Diego, California. As a city dedicated to 100 percent renewable energy, it has formed 56,000 jobs in the industry of clean energy.

Alaska Experiences Extreme Wildfires


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | July 25, 2022

In Alaska, wildfires are burning in ways that are rarely seen. Areas that are usually fireproof, or mostly fireproof, are burning.

More than 530 wildfires have burned an area the size of Connecticut, and the usual worst of the fire season is still later in the summer. While little property has burned, some residents have been forced to evacuate.

Recent rains have helped but longer-term forecasts are showing a pattern similar to 2004. In 2004, July rains gave way to high-pressure systems, hot days, low humidity and lightning strikes that fueled Alaska’s worst fire year.

The acreage burned by mid-July was about the same as now, but by the time that fire season ended, 10,156 square miles were burned.

Heat waves and droughts are making wildfires more frequent, destructive, and harder to fight in many places. This month, wildfires have torn through Portugal, Spain, France, England and Germany, which have seen record-high temperatures.

Food waste worsens climate change


Via Pexels

Grace Smith | July 21, 2022

An estimate of 30 to 40 percent of food in the U.S. is wasted. When food gets wasted, inputs used to store, process, transport, and prepare the food are also wasted. Not only does food waste impact the inputs, but its use of greenhouse gases is worsening climate change. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a report in 2021 that said, every year, U.S. food loss encompasses 170 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, GHG emissions. The EPA compared it to the annual carbon dioxide emissions of 42 coal-fired power plants. 

The combination of food waste in landfills, which accounts for about 23 percent of total landfilled waste, and methane burped from cows makes up for a significant number of Earth’s total methane emissions. 12 percent of methane emissions come from livestock manure. In addition, agriculture makes up 11 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.

To prevent food waste from increasing, Dana Gunders, executive director of ReFED, an organization that examines food waste, said during a committee meeting that standardized food labeling would make a large impact. Right now, different types of food have different labels, including “best by,” “sell by,” and “enjoy by.” Gunders said creating a standard would help stunt climate change.

Climate change created unpredictability in rainfall, impacts crops


Via Pexels

Grace Smith | July 18, 2022

State Climatologist Justin Glisan said storms in Iowa are hitting smaller areas with more intensity and an increase in rainfall with unpredictable patterns. Iowa’s humidity levels have 13 percent more atmospheric moisture than 35 years ago, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. As the climate warms, water vapor in the air will continue to increase, which creates an imbalance in soil moisture for crops.

Although there has been an increase in water vapor with the presence of climate change, July has been extremely dry, and trends show April and October as wetter months this year. This trend and the below-average rainfall during dry months create lessened crop production, which Iowa saw in May when spring planting conditions were not optimal. 

This year, unlike some past dry years, topsoil and subsoil are labeled “adequate” in moisture, to help crops continue to grow during dry months like July.

With the condition of the soil and projected trends, Glisan said the 2060s and 2070s are when precipitation severity catches up to climbing temperatures. So, innovations in agriculture technology and increased rainfall are aiding crops and increasing yields.

July 5 derecho intensity linked to climate change


Via Flickr

Grace Smith | July 7, 2022

A derecho swept through parts of Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska, Illinois, and Minnesota on July 5. South Dakota experienced fallen power lines and trees from wind gusts higher than 90 mph. Huron and Miner, states in South Dakota, had wind gusts higher than 95 mph. The derecho that swept intense wind through the Midwest may be linked to climate change. 

The derecho on July 5 is a progressive derecho, a summertime-occurring derecho fueled by an area that is hot, dry, and contains strong winds. A similar occurrence happened in August of 2020 when a derecho with extremely high winds hit over 700 miles in 14 hours across the Midwest destroying crops, homes, trees, and more. Meteorology professor at the University of Northern Iowa Alan Czarnetzki said, after the 2020 derecho, human-induced warming of the planet’s surface can increase the likelihood of stronger derechos

After the derecho on July 5, scientists also say climate change can increase the intensity of storms like derechos. According to NASA, as the air continues to warm from climate change, other storms including hurricanes may also be affected, creating heavier rainfall and stronger wind. 

In 2021, the world’s surface temperature was 1.51 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the 20th century average of 57 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lake Mead may become a dead pool because of intense drought


Via Flickr

Grace Smith | June 30, 2022

Lake Mead, a lake on the border of Arizona and Nevada, experienced an extremely low water level on Thursday at 1,043.8 feet: the lowest level since 1930 when the lake was filled. Over 25 million people rely on water from the lake, which is also the nation’s largest reservoir. 

As of January 2022, Lake Mead is now at only 34 percent of its capacity. If the water level reaches below 895 feet, it will be classified as a dead pool. This means the lake will be too low to flow downstream or over the Hoover Dam, the lake’s lowest water outlet.

At the end of April, one of the water intake valves, which has been used since 1971, became exposed to air. This is the first valve to be above water in the lake and can no longer be in service.

The decrease in water comes from a drought occurring in the western United States that is described as the West’s worst drought in 1,200 years. In a Nature Climate Change study published in February 2022, authors estimated that 42 percent of the soil moisture depletion in the West from 2000-2021 was caused by human-provoked climate change. The drought, which started in 2000, will likely continue until at least 2030.

Study finds heat waves seven times more likely to occur today than 40 years ago


Via Flickr

Grace Smith | June 27, 2022

Heat waves, or high temperatures reoccurring for multiple days, pose a major threat to many aspects of everyday life: human health, ecosystems, food-producing regions, and crop growth. A study, published in January 2022, found that heat waves are seven times more likely to occur today than 40 years ago, affecting a larger area with hotter waves. 

In addition to the increase in hotter, larger heat waves, the study also compared the 1980s to the 2010s’ number of waves. The number of heat waves has doubled from May to Sept. in the Northern Hemisphere, or north of the equator. In the 1980s, about 73 waves occurred, and in the 2010s, there were 152. Other data included the number of days with two or more heat waves, which grew seven times higher from 20 in the 1980s to 143 in the 2010s.

The most significant heat waves struck North America, Europe, and Asia. India and Pakistan have experienced the hottest march in 122 years, with 64 percent less rainfall than normal in Pakistan and 71 percent in India. The heat waves in India and Pakistan have caused 90 deaths, floods, forest fires, and a wheat crop yield decrease. And the heat waves are unlikely to subside as climate change continues. If temperatures continue to rise, heat waves may become 2-20 times more likely than occurrences this year, and 0.5-1.5 degrees hotter.