Iowa City releases new report on Climate Action Acceleration

Tyler Chalfant | November 19th, 2019

Photo from Alan Light, flickr

In August, Iowa City, motivated by student climate strikers, became the first city in Iowa to declare a climate crisis. The resolution updated the emissions goals set by the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan passed in 2018, and directed the City Manager’s Office to develop a report recommending ways to meet these new targets within 100 days. 

Last Friday, City Council released that report, which contains 64 initiatives to reduce carbon emissions in buildings, transportation, and waste, as well as to adapt to more volatile weather, and promote sustainable lifestyles. The greatest number of these initiatives are focused on increasing energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy in buildings, which account for approximately 82% of emissions. 

The new targets set in August were based on a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which claimed that human-caused emissions would net to be reduced by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, and to reach net zero by 2050 in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. In Iowa City, that would require a minimum annual decrease of about 22,000 metric tonnes of carbon emissions. 

The report also includes recommendations of tax increases to fund incentive programs and public projects and education, as well as a partnership with MidAmerican Energy to install utility-scale solar panels. City Sustainability Coordinator Brenda Nations said that, while these goals are feasible, “the challenging thing is we need a lot of people on board to do it.” City Council will review the report and its recommendations at Tuesday evening’s work session.

Activist Greta Thunberg to join Iowa City climate strikers

Massimo Biggers speaks at the Iowa City Climate Strike on September 20th, 2019

Tyler Chalfant | October 3rd, 2019

16-year old climate activist Greta Thunberg announced Wednesday on Twitter that she will be joining Iowa City students in their strike this Friday. This spring, it was Thunberg who inspired Massimo Biggers, an Iowa City middle school student, to begin striking.

Since the local movement began, both the Iowa City School Board and City Council have passed climate plans, and this September, hundreds of students and community members joined Biggers and the other strikers in a march on City Hall and the University of Iowa campus. 

“Greta coming to Iowa City means that people have paid attention to our climate strikes and we have been heard,” Biggers told the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Thunberg gained international attention for protesting outside the Swedish parliament last year. After taking a sailboat across the Atlantic Ocean to speak at the U.N. Climate Action Summit, also spoke before Congress and has become a focal point for both supporters and critics of addressing climate change. 

“We are honored and inspired and emboldened by Greta’s campaign,” Biggers said, “and we hope her visit brings together our town and the university to join together for a real climate plan, end coal and the power plant, and put Iowa City in the forefront for climate emergency action in the nation.”

Iowa City students and residents join global climate strike

Tyler Chalfant | September 23rd, 2019

Reporting by Julia Poska

Four million students and activists around the world protested for action on climate change last Friday. Student-organizers from Iowa City schools led hundreds of strikers in demanding that the City and the University of Iowa create a Town-Gown Climate Accord to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2030 and to end coal burning at the university’s power plant.

Students at Tate High marched out of class at 11 a.m., chanting “save the earth.” Later in the afternoon, the Iowa City Climate Strikers were joined by the groups 100 Grannies, the Sunrise Movement, the Sierra Club, and Young Democratic Socialists of America, along with students from the University of Iowa and the Iowa City Community. Together, they marched from City Hall to the University Pentacrest.

Iowa City Mayor Jim Throgmorton said that it was “easily the biggest and most enthusiastic crowd” he’d ever seen in front of City Hall. Last month, Iowa City became the first city in the state to declare a climate crisis, and set carbon emissions targets in line with those set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “There’s many more actions that have to take place for us to accomplish the goals we’ve set for ourselves,” said Throgmorton. “We need public support for those actions.”

Students at the strike spoke of the urgency of the climate situation. “This is super important because basically if we don’t stop it, it’s the end of the world,” said Massimo Biggers, a high school freshman. “The world is basically burning right now, and we only have eleven years to save it.” Protesters emphasized the eleven year timeline when they staged a “die-in,” laying in silence on the Pentacrest, for eleven minutes.

Morgan Lenss, a junior at the University of Iowa, said that she joined the protest because she believes the environment should come before anything else. “We can’t wait anymore for major changes,” she said. “These need to be big changes, and they need to happen fast.” 

While many young people led the protest, some older community members showed up to support younger generations. Molly Stroh, a member of the group 100 Grannies for a Livable Future, commented, “We don’t want our grandkids to look at us and say ‘Where were you?’”

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.

City council extends recycling services to all Iowa City residents

Changes to Iowa City code make curbside recycling services available to all residents of Iowa City. (Mike Mahaffle/flickr)

Jenna Ladd | October 20, 2016

Iowa City council voted unanimously on Tuesday to ramp up recycling efforts in the city.

The first consideration of the amendment to City Code Title 16, Article 3H passed  7-0. It requires recycling services to be available for all multi-family units; currently the city only services single-family households up to four units. Changes made to city code will also provide curbside food-waste collection services and prohibit residents from dumping computers and televisions into the municipal landfill.

City council member Rockne Cole is a long-time proponent of the measure. He said, “We’re looking at diverting over 1,700 tons of material from the landfill.”

University of Iowa and community environmental groups have been advocating for a city-wide recycling program for years. Jacob Simpson, UISG City Council Liaison, said that these changes benefit students who wish to continue recycling after moving off campus. He said, “At the university, we have the opportunity for students to recycle in the dorms and practice something that they’ve learned, and then a lot of the time, they have to go off campus, and they don’t have that ability,” Simpson added, “I think now that the city has taken this step to provide this in off-campus buildings, we cannot just see a benefit to Iowa City, but I think this is going to be something that benefits the state and beyond, as people become more accustomed to recycling.”

City director of Transportation Services Chris O’Brien said that all residential complexes built after January 1, 2017 must immediately comply with the new recycling policy. Landlords that own existing dwellings will be granted a grace period to get in compliance.

City council member Cole added, “It’s a real great victory for the University of Iowa, our community and most importantly, the environment.”

On the Radio: No plastic bag ban for Iowa City

Photo by heal the bay, Flickr
Photo by heal the bay, Flickr

Listen to this week’s radio segment here or read the transcript below. This week’s segment discusses a decision by council members to allow the continued use of plastic bags in Iowa City.

Council members have decided not to ban plastic bags in Iowa City.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

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Flood Center model predicts response to mitigation

The Iowa River - photo by Jim Malewitz

As Iowa City considers three multimillion dollar flood mitigation projects, the Iowa Flood Center is predicting their outcomes. The results would be a mixed bag for Iowans living along the Iowa River, the model predicted.

From the Iowa City Press-Citizen:

Iowa City’s public works director said Monday that initial forecasts from a flood-modeling program show proposed mitigation projects will result in lower water levels along Taft Speedway and other points upriver of the Park Road Bridge in the event of future flooding.

For a proposed levee on the east side of the river from Highway 6 to the Crandic Railroad bridge, flood levels just north of there would rise by three-quarters of an inch in a 100-year flood and 2¾ inches in a 500-year flood, Fosse said….

Meanwhile, downriver, the effects of the mitigation projects would raise water levels at points north of two new levees during future floods, the model shows.

And for a proposed levee on the west side of the river from McCollister Boulevard to the Crandic Railroad, Fosse said levels just north of there would rise by similar heights.

View the Flood Center’s many maps.