Syria joins climate agreement, U.S. only country not participating


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The 23rd United Nations Conference of the Parties on Climate Change is taking place November 6 through 17 in Bonn, Germany. (Bonn International)
Jenna Ladd | November 8, 2017

Syria recently announced at the international climate conference in Bonn, Germany that it will join the Paris Climate Accord.

Syria’s decision to join the international agreement makes the United States the only country in the world that is not honoring the 2015 climate change mitigation goals. President Trump announced that the U.S. would leave the agreement, which aims to keep global temperatures from rising more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels, in June.

Nicaragua was the second-to-last country to ratify the agreement. The central American country initially voiced concerns that the Paris climate agreement did not go far enough to address climate change but decided to join in September.

The Sierra Club published a response to Syria’s joining, “As if it wasn’t already crystal clear, every single other country in the world is moving forward together to tackle the climate crisis, while Donald Trump has isolated the United States on the world stage in an embarrassing and dangerous position.”

Given that the U.S. is the second-largest producer of greenhouse gases, some experts wonder if the international climate goals can be reached without U.S. government support. More than 1,300 U.S Mayors, Governors, State Attorneys, businesses, investors and other prominent climate actors have communicated their continued commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement goals in the We Are Still In movement. The group, which makes up $6.2 trillion of the U.S. economy, will send numerous delegates to the the Conference of the Parties 23 to “show [ing] the world that U.S. leadership on climate change extends well beyond federal policy.”

U.S. energy flow chart reveals the good and the bad


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(Lawerence Livermore National Laboratory)
Jenna Ladd | April 18, 2017

Each year since 2010, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has released an energy flow chart that illustrates sources of U.S. energy, what it’s used for and how much of it goes to waste.

The 2016 energy flow chart quantifies energy use in British Thermal Unit “quads,” which is shorthand for quadrillion or one thousand trillion. A British Thermal Unit (BTU) is equal to the amount of energy required to raise one pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit. Americans used 97.3 quads of energy in 2016, which is about 0.1 quadrillion BTU more than last year.

The gray box on the upper right-hand corner of the graphic depicts just how much of that energy was wasted this year: 66.4 quadrillion BTU or 69 percent of all energy produced. It is important to remember that per the second law of thermodynamics, when raw materials are converted into energy, some energy is always lost to heat. In other words, no reaction is 100 percent efficient.

Since the 1970’s, wasted energy has surged in the United States due to a rapid increase in personal electricity consumption and private vehicular transportation, which are both extremely inefficient. Roughly 75 of the energy generated for private transportation and two-thirds of energy required for electricity goes to waste.

This year’s energy flow chart was not all bad news. Coal use fell by nine percent nationwide. That supply was replaced by rapid growth in wind, solar and natural gas energy production. Wind and solar energy did particularly well, with wind energy up 19 percent and solar energy up 38 percent.

Fossil fuel consumption for transportation rose by 2 percent this year, but residential, commercial and industrial energy use all decreased slightly. In all, the U.S. is slowly moving away from fuels that emit greenhouse gases. Total carbon dioxide emissions fell by 4.9 percent in 2016. It is uncertain, however, whether this trend will continue under the Trump administration.

Study finds consumers, retailers waste about half the produce grown in the U.S.


(Nick Saltmarsh/Flickr)
(Nick Saltmarsh/Flickr)
Nick Fetty | July 15, 2016

New research suggests that as much as half of the food produce in the United States is wasted.

“demand for unattainable perfection” in the appearance of fruits and vegetables is largely to blame for the vast amount of wasted food. Fruits and vegetables are often led in the field to rot, fed to livestock, or shipped directly to landfills when deemed unsellable because of cosmetic imperfections. According to government data, about 60 million tons of produce, worth about $160 billion, is wasted by American retailers and consumers annually. Globally, about 1.6 billion tons, valued at about $1 trillion, is wasted each year.

Despite these findings, researchers recognize that there is currently no clear way to account for food loss in U.S. However, the World Resources Institute and other thinktanks are developing methods to more accurately account for food waste. Wasteful food production practices are detrimental to efforts to fight global hunger and climate change.

Last year U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack called for a 50 percent reduction in food waste by 2030. However, one expert argues that Vilsack’s goal could have a negative effect on food economics. Roger Gordon – founder of the Food Cowboy – told The Guardian that a 50 percent reduction in food waste could reduce the profit margin of produce at grocery stores by half. He added that fresh produce accounts for about 15 percent of supermarket profits.

The University of Northern Iowa’s Iowa Waste Reduction Center was established in 1988 with the intention of helping businesses reduce food waste in the Hawkeye State. In 2013, the center released a report entitled “Iowa Food Waste Reduction Program Market Analysis.”

Chinese company to provide solar energy for World Cup


Nick Fetty | June 12, 2014
The United States taking on Guatemala during a qualifying match for the 2014 World Cup. Photo by Brent Flanders; Flickr
The United States taking on Guatemala in Kansas City during a qualifying match for the 2014 World Cup.
Photo by Brent Flanders; Flickr

Yingli Solar looks to become the first carbon-neutral sponsor for the FIFA World Cup, which kicked off today in Brazil.

The 16-year old company contributed more than 5000 solar panels and nearly 30 off-grid solar energy systems to provide power for matches at the various stadiums. Yingli – which is the only Chinese company to sponsor the World Cup – is the world’s largest manufacturer of solar panels. The company hopes to not only “use the World Cup platform to increase the awareness toward the functionality of solar energy in day-to-day use” but also to raise brand awareness in the United States as well as globally. Yingli first got involved sponsoring the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and research shows that customer awareness increased 30 percent because of the sponsorship.

A 2010 study found that the World Cup that year created a carbon footprint equivalent to more than 2,750,000 tons of carbon dioxide. The 2014 tournament is expected to create roughly the same carbon footprint.

6 Ways the Newly Passed Farm Bill Will Impact Iowa


Photo courtesy of Brandon Hirsch, Flickr.

The new farm bill, passed by Senate last week will affects Iowans in several ways, from boosting access to locally grown fruits and vegetables at farmers markets to protecting wetlands and prairies, the Des Moines Register said.

Here are six ways the farm bill impacts our state directly:

  1. Farmers win safety net
  2. Local food gets boost
  3. Land, water find protections
  4. Food stamps status quo
  5. Beginning farmers get help
  6. Research

To read more about the bill and Iowa, click here.

CGRER Co-Sponsors Seminars


The Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research is co-sponsoring two upcoming seminars at the University of Iowa.

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Photo courtesy of the University of Toronto

 

Alan Bewell, from the University of Toronto, will speak about “Natures in Translation: Romanticism and Colonial Natural History” on Tuesday, February 4, at 3:30 p.m. in room 304 of the UI English-Philosophy Building. 

 

 

 

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Photo courtesy of the University of Oregon

 

Stephanie LeMenager, from the University of Oregon, will speak about her recent book, “Living Oil in the USA: An Abridged Petrol Diary.” This seminar will occur on Thursday, April 10, at 3:30 p.m. in room 304 of the UI English-Philosophy Building. 

 

These seminars are free and open to the public.

We hope to see you there!

Iowa Public Radio: “Ag-gag” bills failed in 2013


Photo by Liberation BC; Flickr

“Ag-gag” refers to laws that make it illegal to photograph or shoot videos of internal operations of farms where food animals are being raised.

Animal rights groups  say abuse happens regularly out of view of the public and the law, and to expose it, they have to send in activists posing as ordinary workers, armed with video cameras.

Three states signed ag-gag bill into law in 2011 and 2012, setting new legal precedents. This year,  15 ag-gag bills were introduced in 11 states, but not a single one passed. 

For the full story, head over to Iowa Public Radio.