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.

Supreme Court narrows EPA’s power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions


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Grace Smith | July 1, 2022

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision that the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) does not have the authority to administer expansive regulations on pollution from power plants. The ruling in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency puts a strain on President Joe Biden’s efforts to manage climate change. 

The Clean Air Act of 1970, a plan put in place to govern greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, was brought up in the case. But, because of lawsuits and other issues, the program stalled in 2016. So, the Biden Administration attempted to dismiss the case because there were no plans in place from the E.P.A. that would govern the power plant, but the argument didn’t work. 

The U.S. is the second world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter as of 2021, accounting for around 11 percent of the world’s total emissions. In 2020, the electricity sector, or the energy industry, was the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 25%, in the U.S., behind transportation. 

The E.P.A. doesn’t have the power it would have held, but not all their leadership is stripped. The E.P.A. can still regulate power plants, but it can’t do the necessary amount of cutting and shutting down to reduce the critical amount of greenhouse gas emissions.

Because of the new ruling, Biden’s promise to the world that the U.S. would cut greenhouse gas emissions in half from 2005 levels by 2030 has become a more challenging goal to achieve. Coral Davenport, a New York Times energy and environmental policy reporter, said for Biden to achieve this, new legislation and stricter regulations on all sectors of pollution need to be put in place.

U.S. greenhouse gas emissions up in 2021


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | January 19, 2021

Greenhouse gas emissions rose more than six percent in 2021 after a nearly 10 percent drop in 2020.

Emissions rose as the economy began bouncing back from the initial economic decline from the COVID-19 pandemic hitting the U.S. As in-person work returned, in several sectors, coal plants came back. Estimates published in early January by the Rhodium Group, the emissions remain five percent below 2019 levels regardless of the increase. The 10 percent drop in 2020 was the biggest plummet on record, according to the New York Times.

Coal, the fossil fuel that pollutes the most, made a strong comeback in 2021. Last year there was 17 percent rise in emissions from coal-fired power plants. In 2020, there was a 19 percent decline.

President Joe Biden has set a goal of decreasing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent below 2005 levels in the next eight years. The goal matches what most climate scientists say is needed to keep the Earth from warming more than 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit and minimizing catastrophic climate events. As of the newest report, the U.S.’s emissions are 17.4 percent below 2005 levels.

Other reports, however, suggest the Biden administration’s efforts will not be met. The World Resources Institute reported in December 2021that the world must reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions to be successful in climate cooling goals. WRI’s findings show the Biden administration’s goals are not enough.

Greenhouse Gas Levels Reached a New Record


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Josie Taylor | October 27, 2020

Heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a new record last year, with the annual rate of increase above the 2011-2020 average. That trend has continued in 2021, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Greenhouse Gas Bulletin

As long as emissions continue, global temperature will continue to rise. CO2 has a long life, therefore the temperature level already observed will persist for several decades even if emissions are rapidly reduced to net zero. Rising temperatures is not the only thing that these emissions will cause. This also means more weather extremes like intense heat and rainfall, ice melt, sea-level rise and ocean acidification. All of these extremes also have socioeconomic impacts.

Roughly half of the CO2 emitted by human activities today remains in the atmosphere. The other half is taken up by oceans and land ecosystems. The Bulletin flagged concern that the ability of land ecosystems and oceans to act as “sinks” may become less effective in future. This means that more of the CO2 will go into the atmosphere and temperatures will increase at an even higher rate. 

Carbon dioxide is the most important greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, accounting for approximately ⅔ of climate change effects, mainly because of fossil fuel combustion and cement production.

Farmers are Beginning to Back the Fight Against Climate Change


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Nicole Welle | November 23, 2020

The American Farm Bureau has strongly opposed legislation aimed at slowing global warming in the past, but its recent decision to form the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance indicates that it may be changing course.

This coalition brings together climate advocates and agricultural lobbies that plan to urge the government to adopt policy changes that will make it cheaper and easier for farmers to reduce emissions. The coalition’s list of proposals do not include an increase in regulation or mandatory cuts to agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, the proposals are voluntary and, in some cases, involve paying farmers for their efforts, according to an Iowa Public Radio Article.

The recent shift in farmers’ willingness to address climate change is happening for a few different reasons. Many big food companies, like Pepsico and Kellogg’s, have committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and are pushing farmers to make changes as well. Some are even paying farmers to do so. More farmers are also starting to feel the effects of climate change as droughts and flooding events become more common.

The coalition did not quantify the impact of their proposed policy changes, and some environmentalists are against the idea of farmers making money from their greenhouse gas reductions since it is not known how much pollution might actually be reduced. However, while farmers are still opposed to direct regulation, many environmentalists are celebrating the coalition as a step forward in adding farmers to the conversation about climate change.

Event: Johnson County Climate Forum


UI engineering professor and CGRER co-director Dr. Jerry Schnoor will deliver a keynote speech at the Johnson County Climate forum on April 18. (Michael Gallagher/Iowa Environmental Focus)

Nick Fetty | April 14, 2015

The Iowa United Nations Association (UNA) is hosting its inaugural forum to address climate change on an international scale.

The first of the eight-part community forum series will kick off in Iowa City on Saturday April 18. The event will take place at the University Athletic Club (1360 Melrose Ave, Iowa City) and is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. Cost of attendance is $10 which includes lunch. Those interested in attending must register before the event.

The event will include keynote speeches from UI engineering professor and CGRER co-director Jerry Schnoor as well as CGRER member Peter Thorne who also serves as a professor in the College of Public Health. There will also be panel discussions of student activism on climate change, the impact of climate change worldwide, and opportunities for citizen action. This series will serve as a preface for the UN’s conference to curb global greenhouse gas emissions scheduled to take place in Paris this December.

For more information about Saturday’s event, email Iowa UNA Exectuve Director Matthew Wolf: matthew[AT]unaiowa.org.

Monetary sponsors for this event include: UI Office of Sustainability, National Education Association Peace and Justice Iowa Caucus, Hills Bank and Trust Company, Rotary Club of Iowa City – Noon, John Fraser, Dorothy Paul. Other partners include: Johnson County UNA, UI Environmental Health Sciences Research Center, UI Center for Human Rights, UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility, Sierra Club, ECO IC.

Canadian university reduces emissions while levels rise for City


Nick Fetty | June 24, 2014

Ontario Hall (left) and Grant Hall (right) on the Queen's University campus in Kingston, Ontario. Photo by Aidan Wakely-Mulroney; Flickr
Ontario Hall (left) and Grant Hall (center) on the Queen’s University campus in Kingston, Ontario.
Photo by Aidan Wakely-Mulroney; Flickr

Greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by 10 percent (compared to 2010 levels) at Queen’s University while emissions for the City of Kingston – home to Queen’s University – have risen.

The 2011-2012 Queen’s University Greenhouse Gas Inventory analyzes greenhouse gas emissions from 2008 to 2012. The report shows that emission levels have decreased by more than 20 percent since 2008 when data was first collected. Aaron Ball – Sustainability Coordinator at Queen’s University – noted out that “the decrease in emissions from 2010 to 2011 is largely due to a cleaner electricity supply in Ontario, while the uptick in 2012 is attributable to the weather.”

The City of Kingston drafted a Climate Action Plan in 2014 which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 350,000 tons by the year 2030. The City has implemented several carbon-reducing measures including: facility retrofits, adopting a green building plan, constructing five LEED facilities, and installing 11 solar projects.

Queen’s University is a public research institute with just over 23,000 students located in Kingston, Ontario, about 100 miles north of Syracuse, New York. Kingston has a population of 123,363 according to the 2011 Census.