Behavioral, public policy seminar on solar energy is coming to the University of Iowa


Via the University of Iowa’ Office of the Vice President for Research.

By Eleanor Hildebrandt | October 26, 2021

Five panelists are coming to the University of Iowa on Wednesday to discuss the need for expanded solar energy at an event titled “Decarb 2040.”

The panel is comprised of academic, community, and industry experts who plan to present research on how decisions regarding the adoption of solar power in different locations are made. The presentation will take place on Oct. 27 from noon until 1:30 pm.

Following the presentation, a Q&A will focus on future research and funding opportunities. The panel consists of the following guests:

  • Chris Hoffman, Vice President of Solar PV Sales, Moxie Solar 
  • Ion “Bodi” Vasi, Associate Professor of Sociology and Management and Organizations
  • Charlie Nichols, Linn County Planning and Development 
  • Travis Kraus, Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities 
  • Rachel Kilberg, City of Iowa City Assistant City Manager

The event is held via Zoom. Undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, staff, and faculty are welcome to attend. Individuals can register here.

The University of Iowa’s Office of the Vice President of Research is hosting the event which aims to focus on Iowa as an energy exporter in the coming era of decarbonization. Iowa has abundant resources in solar and wind energy as well as bioenergy. The recent research focuses on how the state could use these resources to become a net exporter of energy by 2040 based on current plans to focus on energy sources that use less carbon.

Cedar Rapids is Considering a Flood Control System


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | October 25, 2021

Cedar Rapids leaders recently presented plans to put millions of federal dollars toward the city’s ongoing flood control plans. The extra resources will be targeted at the west side.

The city has plans for a large flood control system along the Cedar River. This is a response to the 2008 flood that caused $6 billion in damage on downtown businesses and neighborhoods on the westside of Cedar Rapids. 

A smaller but still serious flood in 2016 — which reached 22 feet, compared to 31 in 2008 — was a reminder of the need for a flood control system.

This round of federal funding is specifically intended to benefit vulnerable communities who were most severely impacted by the pandemic and to promote community resilience. Cedar Rapids’ use of more than $10 million for west side flood protection is this kind of mission. 

Residents in flood-impacted areas are more likely to be impoverished, elderly, disabled, renters and in women-headed households. They are the kinds of people who historically in the United States have not been well served by city planning, housing and infrastructure policy. Creating a flood plan that targets the west side would be a way for city officials to correct national injustices in their city. 

Polk County is Meeting to Discuss Future Outdoor Public Spaces


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | October 21, 2021

Today there will be a town hall style meeting for Polk County’s upcoming $65 million bond referendum to fund water, parks and trails projects.

The Polk County Water & Land Legacy Bond needs support from at least 60% of voters in the Nov. 2 referendum to pass. A similar measure in 2012 got 72% approval among voters, and a survey this spring of likely voters suggested similar support this year, said Rich Leopold, the county’s conservation director.

The average Polk County property owner will pay an estimated $11 per year if the referendum succeeds.

This referendum is focused completely on public outdoor spaces. 

It’s anticipated that up to $15 million of the new referendum money would help pay for projects prioritized by the Iowa Confluence Water Trails group, which is led by local elected officials, business leaders and others. The group wants to improve several creeks and rivers to better accommodate canoeing, kayaking and tubing to encourage recreational tourism.

Some of the money will also fund a new campground and other improvements to Sleepy Hollow Sports Park, which the county bought this year.

Northeast Iowa farm co-op fined thousands for chemical discharge


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | October 20, 2021

A northeastern Iowa farmers’ cooperative agreed to pay a $6,000 fine for a discharge of ammonia.

Last year, the illegal discharge drained into a creek that feeds into the Turkey River, according to Iowa Capital Dispatch. The river is more than 150 miles long and flows into the Mississippi River. The pollution killed fish and other species present in the river. The dead fish tipped off a local fisherman who notified authorities in July 2020.

A state investigation followed that traced the pollution back to a drainage ditch in the region. The anhydrous ammonia drained into a water storage area at the Three Rivers FS Company. The company agreed to pay the fee without denying or admitting they were at fault.

The quantity of the fertilizer contamination is unknown at this time. The fertilizer was highly attracted to water and the Turkey River. According to an Iowa Department of Natural Resources order in September, Three Rivers consistently pumped snow melt and rainwater into the water storage area. Following the pumping, the water flowed into the creek.

Since the original ammonia leakage, Iowa DNR Environmental Specialist Jessica Ragsdale told the Dispatch the company has altered their practices .

Iowa to see PFAS water testing


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | October 19, 2021

Iowans could will soon see testing for “forever chemicals” in their water supply.

State officials are preparing to begin testing specific water sources for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly referred to at PFAS. The chemicals can lead to cancer and other health problems. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources intends to start testing in the next few weeks, according to Iowa Capital Dispatch. The water monitoring will begin in central Iowa.

PFAS regulation has increased in recent months. In mid-June, the Environmental Protection Agency established a council on the chemicals. The council is specifically tasked with reducing the potential risks caused by these chemicals. Before the creation of the council, U.S. Representatives and Senators were pushing to reclassify PFAS.

The risk of PFAS is low, Supervisor of the Department’s Water Quality Program Roger Bruner said. He said a team from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources will go to municipal water sources to sample the drinking water.

Iowa previously tested drinking water for PFAS during a federal monitoring system from 2013 until 2015. The original tests did not show any significant levels of contamination. There is no definitive date for when the results of the 2021 tests will be released to the public.

Iowa Climate Statement 2021 press conference covers in-depth climate issues


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | October 15, 2021

Following the release of the 2021 Iowa Climate Statement, authors and signatories spoke with reporters to answers questions about climate issues in the state on Wednesday.

More than 200 professors and researchers signed the tenth annual statement. Chairman of Environmental Science and Sustainability at Drake University said the groups is “trying to identify the things we need to do to adapt to the climate regime,” at the press conference.

The statement specifically pointed at the summer 2020 derecho, a long-lived wind and rain storm often referred to as an inland hurricane. On the Zoom call, Gene Takle, an Iowa State University agronomy professor, said since Iowans don’t know when, in what form, or where an extreme weather event could occur down the road, there is a strong likelihood of another widespread power outage.

In August, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated the weather event caused more than $11 billion in damages across the Midwest region. In Iowa alone, power was knocked out for more than half a million households across the state. Some Iowans waited two weeks for power outages to end according to Iowa Public Radio. Another weather event like the derecho could cost Iowans even more if the strength of the state’s infrastructure does not improve.

Co-director of the Center for Global and Environmental Research Jerry Schnoor said “people do realize this is a serious issue and that we will need to act.” He said the pushes towards renewable energy and other climate goals in the state are not happening fast enough.


The 2021 statement and the recording of Wednesday’s press conference can be found here.

Iowa Climate Statement 2021: Strengthening Iowa’s Electric Infrastructure


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | October 13, 2021

Since 2011, researchers and educators at nearly every college and university in Iowa have produced annual statements to communicate in plain language the state of climate science and the impacts of climate change on Iowans. Today, the Climate Statement for 2021 was released. This year’s focus is on Iowa’s Electric Infrastructure.

Last year’s August derecho, the most destructive thunderstorm in US history, knocked out power to more than 500,000 Iowa households for as much as two weeks. “The loss of power left people in the dark without air conditioning, refrigeration, access to food, phone chargers and life sustaining medical equipment,” said Dave Courard-Hauri, Chair of Environmental Science and Sustainability Program, Drake University. “This was a potentially deadly combination for many vulnerable and low income Iowans.”

“Iowa’s power outages from the 2020 derecho resulted from extreme damage to transmission and distribution systems,” said Jim McCalley, Anson Marston Distinguished Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Iowa State University.

Climate disasters are not over. To prepare for future Iowa extreme weather events, it is recommended that industry, policy makers and stakeholders identify ways to strengthen Iowa’s electric infrastructure, protect vulnerable people, and consider enhanced risks from climate change while managing costs. Climate change is here. We need a resilient electric infrastructure as we curtail carbon emissions for a more sustainable future.

Revisiting Iowa Climate Statements: Increased frequency of dangerous heat events


Via the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | October 12. 2021

In 2019, Iowa climate activists were concerned about the frequency and severity of dangerous heat events. Through the Iowa Climate Statement two years ago, signatories informed Iowans they would be seeing more extreme weather disasters in coming years.

The statement focused on the Earth’s surface continuing to warm at an unprecedented rate, as recent years continually breaking records for the hottest years on record. Hundreds of Iowans signed the climate statement, agreeing that Midwesterners ware seeing dramatic changes in weather with changing rainfall, higher humidity, and warmer nights. Many homes in lower-income areas across the U.S. were not equipped with air conditioning units, leading to more incidents of heat stroke and potential fatalities.

The 2019 Iowa Climate Statement suggested adaptions to these increasingly severe and frequent heat events would require more preparedness, increased energy usage to cool houses and buildings, changing livestock facilities, and halting outdoor work in extreme heat conditions.

Two years later, heat remains the leading cause of weather-related deaths. Another concern from 2019 that remains is the risk to animals with increasing temperatures. Hogs, cattle, and poultry are essential to Iowa’s agricultural industry and the animals continually are at risk of dying from extreme heat events alongside human beings.

Iowa has seen record-breaking heat waves in the past few months. Heat advisories were administered across the country, including in the Midwest where Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois saw several days where temperatures ranged in the 100s. Concerns regarding dangerous heat waves continue in Iowa as they become more frequent and severe, as predicted by the Iowa Climate Statement in 2019.

Iowa Climate Statement 2021 will be released on Wed. Oct. 13.
The eleventh annual Iowa Climate Statement 2021: Strengthening Iowa’s Electric Infrastructure will be released on Wednesday, October 13, 10:15 am at a Zoom press conference and live on CGRER’s Facebook page. The lead authors of the statement will present the statement and take questions. 

Revisiting Iowa Climate Statements: Impacts on the Health of Iowans


Via Flickr

Josie Taylor | October 11, 2021

In 2014, Iowans were seeing the real effects that come with climate change. Heavy rainfall, floods and a longer growing season were some of the impacts. The biggest impact, however, was the health effects of climate change. 

Repeated heavy rain events caused increased exposures to toxic chemicals and raw sewage because of flood waters. Along with that came degraded water quality, which hurt many in Iowa. In farming states like Iowa, higher water temperatures and decreased mixing have combined with high nutrient levels to create harmful algal blooms that make the water unsuitable for human and animal consumption.

An even more common health effect of climate change was its impact on respiratory and cardiovascular health. With warmer temperatures and higher carbon dioxide levels in the air, plants produce not only more pollen, but also pollen with a higher allergen content. A longer growing season extends the period of exposure to allergens, and new allergenic plants moving northward into Iowa are magnifying the range of exposures. Respiratory problems such as childhood asthma have increased dramatically in prevalence since the 1980s. 

Seven years ago, scientists were concerned about new diseases arriving as a result of climate change. They saw new species of mosquitoes and ticks in Iowa capable of transmitting diseases such as Dengue Fever and Ehrlichiosis. With increasing temperatures, more rainfall, and longer summers, these mosquitos and ticks can live longer and expand their range. 

Overall, health concerns resulting from climate change were common and important. These issues were one of the biggest concern for Iowans in 2014, but they are still here today.

Revisiting Iowa Climate Statements: A Rising Challenge to Iowa Agriculture


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | October 8, 2021

One of the biggest climate issues facing Iowans eight years ago was the rising green house gas emissions according to the 2013 Iowa Climate Statement.

While this is still a major concern, dozens of people signed on to the 2013 Iowa Climate Statement. The statement discussed how green house gas emissions and climate change were disrupting Iowa agriculture. Following two years of massive droughts, Iowa saw the one of the wettest summers in the state in 2013. The constant extreme weather in Iowa threw the agriculture sector for a loop. Climate change also causes an increase in soil erosion alongside intense rain events and droughts in Iowa. This leads to degraded agricultural production across the state.

In 2021, Iowa saw a severe drought across the state throughout the summer months. Extreme weather events continue to cause stress to plants and crops across the board. Both climate change and green house gas emissions still concern Iowans and climate activists across the globe.

Iowa Climate Statement 2021 will be released on Wed. Oct. 13.
The eleventh annual Iowa Climate Statement 2021: Strengthening Iowa’s Electric Infrastructure will be released on Wednesday, October 13, 10:15 am at a Zoom press conference and live on CGRER’s Facebook page. The lead authors of the statement will present the statement and take questions.