Categories
Environment

Don’t Pass the Climate Buck to the Next Generation

Finn Harries and All Gore at the Climate Reality Project leadership training in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on May 7, 2015. Photo Credit: Finn Harries Twitter account.

In 2015, Finn Harries sat at our table during former vice president Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth presentation in Cedar Rapids. I didn’t know his history as a YouTuber with his identical twin brother Jack. I was assigned as his mentor during the training yet Finn didn’t need a mentor to work on the climate crisis.

Friday, Nov. 26, Finn Harries made this statement on Instagram after attending COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland:

One of the responses I often hear from older people when I talk about the work I do is “your generation gives me hope”… but this is the wrong way to think about how we go about tackling the climate crisis. In effect, this is the same strategy that has got us so deep into this mess… just passing the problem down to the next generation. What’s different this time is that we don’t have enough time to wait for our generation to be in institutional seats of power… we don’t have any time at all. So we’re flipping it around. We’re passing the problem back, up to those who can actually instigate change. Our role as young activists is to hold people in positions of power to account. To make sure they do what they’ve said they will do. In this way, we all have a critical role to play.

Finn Harries Instagram Account Nov. 26, 2021.

Harries is right. It will take all of us to make a difference during the climate crisis. In the U.S. we are not doing enough to hold people in positions of power to account.

According to a recent Washington Post – ABC News poll, “A clear majority of adults say that warming is a serious problem, but the share — 67 percent — is about the same as it was seven years ago, when alarms raised by climate scientists were less pronounced than they are now.” What will move the public opinion needle and lead to effective climate action?

In Iowa, the effects of climate change are clear. I outlined some of them in a letter to my federal elected officials. What are the two Carbon Capture and Sequestration pipelines to transport liquefied CO2 from Iowa to North Dakota and Illinois but a response to the need to reduce CO2 emissions into the atmosphere? Our political leaders don’t even acknowledge the climate crisis while supporting CO2 removal from the atmosphere.

We do have a critical role to play to prevent the worst effects of global warming. Implementing a solution will require us all.

Here is the YouTube video Finn’s brother Jack Harries made for the Conference of the Parties 26 in Glasgow, Scotland. It features an interview with former president Barack Obama. Young people like the Harries twins are not buying much malarkey. We, as a society, need to act.

Categories
Environment

Here Comes Carbon Capture Technology

Contains 10 Percent Ethanol

Let’s be clear about Carbon Capture and Sequestration: it is an unproven technology to enable fossil fuel use when society should be turning away and leaving fossil fuels in the ground. Among the problems with the technology is our government supports it to the tune of $8.5 billion in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act recently signed into law by President Joe Biden. There is more money for CCS in the Build Back Better Act as currently written. Why would our government do that?

The answer is a familiar one. Oil, gas and coal interests have too much invested to let go of their extraction and distribution operations. During negotiations between the White House and U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, support for CCS was included in both bills. Manchin’s vote was needed to pass the legislation.

In addition to funding CCS technology, the Biden administration appointed a prominent supporter of it, Brad Crabtree, a coal ally and longtime carbon capture advocate, to serve as the Department of Energy’s Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy and Carbon Management. While negotiations over the infrastructure bills were private, Manchin is said to have had a hand in Crabtree’s nomination. Oil, gas and coal advocates let loose a loud cheer of approval upon the announcement.

The question is whether substantial government investment in CCS via the infrastructure bills was a poison pill for environmentalists. Only a few people are asking that question here in Iowa, and fewer still knew what was in the bills. Inclusion of CCS was apparently not too toxic for environmental hawks in the U.S. Congress as it was accepted as part of the sausage-making process of creating legislation.

The partisan lines are clearly drawn. The Republican view of climate action is “with innovative technologies, fossil fuels can and should be a major part of the global solution.” Most Democrats “support increased domestic renewable energy development, including wind and solar power farms, in an effort to reduce carbon pollution. The party’s platform calls for an ‘all of the above’ energy policy including clean energy, natural gas, and domestic oil, while wanting to become energy independent.” It’s no wonder CCS made it into the first infrastructure law, and will into the second if it is passed by the Congress.

The Iowa governor’s task force on carbon sequestration quickly led to Iowa going all-in on the technology, with two proposed Iowa projects. The Iowa Sierra Club opposes them.

We want real climate solutions – not greenwashing schemes!

Iowa has two new pipeline proposals. Both are centered around Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). The lines would carry captured carbon from ethanol plants. CCS is very complicated but when you boil it down, the basic premise is that it captures the carbon and stores it underground (CCS) or it captures the carbon and uses it for industrial purposes. Both Summit and Navigator pipelines claim that they are going to permanently store the CO2 underground, but we have strong evidence that Summit will use the CO2 for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR). EOR is the process of pumping CO2 into dwindling oil fields to get the last bit of oil out of the ground. The two pipelines in Iowa are being offered as false climate solutions, especially if they will be utilized for enhanced oil recovery and extending the life of coal-fired power plants and the ethanol industry.

We already know the solutions to our climate crisis – we must end our dependence on fossil fuels and invest in solar, wind, battery storage, conservation and efficiency!

Sierra Club website.

Click on this link to learn more about actions you can take to oppose the Iowa CCS projects. Click here to sign the Sierra Club petition on CCS.

Categories
Environment

Time for Republicans to Act on Climate

Image of Earth 7-6-15 from DSCOVR (Deep Space Climate Observatory)

We witnessed climate change in Eastern Iowa. For me, it’s personal.

• The 1993 flood delayed progress building our home as we moved from Indiana.

• We experienced multiple straight line wind events that damaged the house, uprooted trees, blew down large branches, and tore through our neighborhood.

• Record flooding in 2008 filled much of the Iowa and Cedar River basins, backing up water into the Lake Macbride watershed to within 100 yards of our home. It made roads around us impassible and devastated many nearby places.

• Record drought in 2012 made life outdoors miserable. It negatively impacted crops. Corn yield in Johnson County decreased from 171.9 bushels per acre in 2011 to 132.4 in 2012, a 23 percent drop.

• There was a derecho on Aug. 10, 2020. In our yard it took down one tree and damaged several others. My greenhouse lifted into the air like Dorothy’s farmhouse in the Wizard of Oz. Winds up to 140 miles per hour destroyed 70 percent of the tree canopy in Cedar Rapids.

I know about climate change from living it, as do most Iowans. It’s time for our Republican members of Congress to work with Democrats and take action to mitigate it.

~ Published in the Iowa City Press Citizen on Oct. 30, 2021.

Categories
Environment

Retro Post: Climate Change is Real

Photo taken by the author.

First published on Iowa City Patch on July 13, 2013.

Climate Change is Real

Last week was arguably the best summer weather we have had in many years. Temperatures were moderate and humidity low; some rain, but not too much; and glorious partly cloudy skies coupled with a light breeze. A bit of imitation vanilla extract on the nose, and even swarms of gnats couldn’t spoil the enjoyment.

Everyone I know who has a garden is having an abundant year of produce. Foragers can find plenty of black raspberries, and while the Iowa DNR sprayed the lily pads on Lake Macbride near Solon, one more toxic substance in the water won’t kill us — we hope.

Climate change is real. Any question that greenhouse gases are warming the planet, and are caused by human activity has fallen away to leave the more appropriate one, “what will we do about climate change?” The crazy weather we have been experiencing recedes from view on days like last week, while coal and natural gas power plants continue to dump CO2 pollution into the atmosphere like it was an open sewer to air-condition our homes. There are two issues: protecting what we hold dear from the effects of climate change, and doing something to address the causes of greenhouse gas emissions.

While addressing climate change is complicated, things we can do to help are not. Reduce energy use at home by turning off lights after leaving a room and unplug your computer and mobile phone chargers when they are not in use. Change how we think about transportation by consolidating errands. We should be doing these things anyway.

The point is not to radically change how we live, but to join the vast majority of Americans in acknowledging that climate change is real, and poses a tangible threat to how we live. Then take steps to personally do something about it. You will be glad you did.

Categories
Environment

Letter to Federal Elected Officials

Woman Writing Letter

On Monday, Oct. 18, I wrote my federal elected officials regarding the climate crisis. If U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley or Joni Ernst, or Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks respond, I will copy the response below the text.

Dear Senator/Representative,

I hope you will support Democratic proposals to address the climate crisis.

As you well know, global warming is a crisis in Iowa.

I witnessed the effects of climate change multiple times since moving to our home near Solon.

  • The flood in 1993 delayed progress building our home as we moved from Indiana.
  • We experienced multiple straight line wind events that damaged the house, uprooted trees, blew down large branches, and tore through our neighborhood.
  • In 2008 there was record flooding that filled much of the Iowa and Cedar River basins, backing up water into the Lake Macbride watershed to within 100 yards of our home. It made roads around us impassible, and devastated Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and other nearby places.
  • In 2012 there was record drought which made life outdoors difficult and negatively impacted crops. In Johnson County corn yield decreased from 171.9 bushels per acre in 2011 to 132.4 in 2012, a 23 percent drop.
  • On Aug. 10, 2020 there was a derecho which took down one tree and damaged several others on our property. My greenhouse lifted in the air like Dorothy’s farmhouse in the Wizard of Oz. Winds up to 140 miles per hour destroyed 70 percent of the tree canopy in Cedar Rapids.

I know about climate change from living it as do most Iowans.

I don’t expect you to agree with everything Democrats propose. We both know that’s not how legislation works. I urge you to find common ground with other members of the Congress and take needed action to prevent and mitigate the worst effects of our warming planet.

Thank you for your consideration.

Regards, Paul

Email response dated Oct. 22, 2021.
Categories
Environment Sustainability

Climate Reality Global Training

I signed up to be a mentor for the Climate Reality Leadership Corps virtual, global training this month. There are more than 500 mentors this time. It’s a chance to meet new people who are taking climate action. The training is also a form of renewal.

I attended the Chicago training in 2013. Since then I mentored groups in Cedar Rapids, and twice virtually. It is a unique kind of work. It is based upon Vice President Al Gore’s slideshow, An Inconvenient Truth. Gore updates the slides continuously and presents it so attendees get a current and terrifying picture of the state of climate change on Earth. It is a crisis.

Sleep came slowly after viewing the first half of the presentation last night.

I wasn’t terrified by the terrifying information Mr. Gore presented. I witnessed the effects of climate change multiple times since moving to Big Grove. The flood in 1993 delayed progress building our home as we moved from Indiana. We experienced multiple straight line wind events that damaged the house, uprooted trees, blew down large branches, and tore through our neighborhood. In 2008 there was record flooding that filled much of the Iowa and Cedar River basins, backing up water into the Lake Macbride watershed to within 100 yards of our home. It made roads around us impassible, and devastated Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and other nearby places. In 2012 there was record drought which made life outdoors difficult and reduced corn yields significantly. On Aug. 10, 2020 there was a derecho which took down one tree and damaged several others on our property. My greenhouse lifted in the air like Dorothy’s farm house in the Wizard of Oz. Winds up to 140 miles per hour destroyed 70 percent of the tree canopy in Cedar Rapids. I know about climate change from living it.

What kept me up late was a newfound sense of hope. There was cause to re-engage in preventing the worst effects of the climate crisis and in mitigating its damage. I couldn’t sleep while the prospect of making a difference surged through me.

The Climate Reality Project rightly focuses on the change in society that most affects global warming: increased burning of fossil fuels. We must find alternative, renewable sources of energy, stop burning fossil fuels, and keep them the ground. We must find and adopt breakthrough technologies for electricity generation to use them to electrify transportation, buildings and industry. Agriculture must play its part by reducing emissions and sequestering carbon in the soil. Let’s put new technologies to work releasing energy for the economy in a way that will improve our quality of life. We must stop using the sky as if it were an open sewer.

I ask myself, how can I make a difference where I live? Personal change is part of solving the climate crisis. We must reduce our personal reliance on burning fossil fuels. Collective action is needed more and that means finding and organizing like-minded people in our area who are inspired to take climate action.

A solution is not evident today. I’m hopeful over the next eight days, along with my colleagues, we’ll discover and take a path forward. I’m okay with losing a little sleep from excitement about our collective future for now.

Categories
Environment

Autumn is Here

Reflection under a foot bridge on the state park trail.

This Friday a lot is going on in real life so I’ll leave this photo taken yesterday.

Once the sun comes up, it’s gleaning the garden, mowing, and a big apple harvest. Kitchen work never ends this time of year. I cleaned four half-gallon jars for apple cider vinegar making and am ready to go.

We take moments of peaceful reflection where we find them.

Categories
Environment

Rain Came and the NOAA Report

Sunrise before the rain.

We had good rain a couple of days this week with predictable results: garden tomatoes are swelling and cracking, the lawn is turning green, and there are more mosquitoes buzzing around the garden.

The county public health department identified a pool of mosquitoes that tested positive for West Nile virus. They issued this press release:

Mosquito Surveillance Program Reveals West Nile Virus Risk

The Johnson County Public Health Mosquito Surveillance Program, in collaboration with testing from Iowa State University and the University of Iowa Hygienic Lab, have identified a pool of mosquitoes testing positive for West Nile virus (WNV). Mosquito samples from a trap located in Hickory Hill Park recently tested positive, suggesting mosquitoes with the potential to carry West Nile virus are likely present in the community.

This is the first pool of mosquitoes to test positive for West Nile virus in Johnson County, since the surveillance program was re-instituted in 2017. No human cases have been reported this season. “Historically, we are near the peak season for mosquito activity and potential WNV transmission, “said James Lacina, Environmental Health Manager at Johnson County Public Health. “Avoiding mosquito bites is the best way to limit the risk of transmission, along with reducing habitat, such as areas of standing water where mosquitoes may breed.”

People can take simple precautions to protect themselves against mosquito bites.
• Use an effective, EPA-registered insect repellent.
• Wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks when outdoors.
• Limit time outside from dusk to dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.
• Mosquito-proof your home by installing or repairing screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitos outside.
• Eliminate mosquito-breeding areas by disposing of standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires, and birdbaths.

Email from Johnson County Public Health, Aug. 26, 2021

We don’t live near the park where West Nile virus was found yet I forwarded the notice to some friends who do. It is great to have a functioning public health department.

In other Thursday news, the Washington Post reported on release of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report “State of the Climate in 2020.” I haven’t read the 481-page document yet the news is not good, it is bad.

Contrary to some news stories about decreased greenhouse gas emissions during the coronavirus pandemic, an associated drop in carbon emissions was all but undetectable to scientists studying our air.

While humanity grappled with the deadliest pandemic in a century many metrics of the planet’s health showed catastrophic decline in 2020. Average global temperatures rivaled the hottest. Mysterious sources of methane sent atmospheric concentrations of the gas spiking to unprecedented highs. Sea levels were the highest on record; fires ravaged the American West; and locusts swarmed across East Africa.

Many measures of Earth’s health are at worst levels on record, NOAA finds by Sarah Kaplan, Washington Post Aug. 26, 2021.

We live in Biblical times with plague, locusts, drought, hurricanes, floods, rising sea levels and wildfires. The planet is literally burning up. While some hope for the rapture to take us from the problems of a deteriorating environment, the rest of us have to cope with the challenges of a planet whose atmosphere traps too much warmth.

Without consistent, concerted efforts to reduce emissions from burning fossil fuels and other human activities, scientists warn, Earth’s condition will continue to deteriorate.

Many measures of Earth’s health are at worst levels on record, NOAA finds by Sarah Kaplan, Washington Post Aug. 26, 2021.

Just read the two-page abstract of the report on page Siii. It is past time to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. No single person can make a difference. It will take all of us working toward the same goal.

It’s no consolation the planet will be fine. The people living on it will not. It’s past time to act on climate.

Categories
Environment

IPCC Releases Sixth Assessment Report

Today, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released their sixth assessment report of the global climate. The news is not good.

Human kind must reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and fast, to avoid the worst effects of the climate crisis, according to the report. On tomorrow’s one-year anniversary of the derecho, Iowa’s latest extreme weather event, the Hawkeye State should pay attention to what scientists have to say. So should we all.

Climate change is affecting every region on earth, in multiple ways.

What does that mean for Iowans and others in the Midwestern states?

  • Increases in drought with continued increases going forward.
  • Projected increase in extreme precipitation.
  • Projected increase in river and pluvial flooding.
  • Projected increases in winter precipitation.

There is a lot of information in the report and rather than summarize it here, I’ll direct readers to the report itself. There are summaries and a wealth of information. It can be viewed and downloaded at this link: https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/

“If we reduce emissions to net zero by 2050, we can keep temperatures close to 1.5C,” wrote Dr Valérie Masson-Delmotte, co-chair of the IPCC. Achieving that would help prevent climate change’s worst effects.

For headlines from the report, click here.

~ IPCC is the international body created in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) for assessing the science related to climate change.

Categories
Environment Sustainability

Now or Never on Climate

Field Corn

Nothing better illustrates what’s at stake in mitigating the worst effects of climate change than the debate between eliminating internal combustion cars, trucks and SUVs, and Iowa’s corn ethanol business which produces automotive fuel. Simply put, we must curtail greenhouse gas emissions to avert the worst effects of global warming. That means reducing, then eliminating, internal combustion engines in automotive transportation.

Last week’s events brought the debate into focus.

On Thursday, Aug. 5, President Biden signed an executive order intended to strengthen America’s leadership in clean cars and trucks. Biden set a goal “that 50 percent of all new passenger cars and light trucks sold in 2030 be zero-emission vehicles, including battery electric, plug-in hybrid electric, or fuel cell electric vehicles.” Biden also addressed tightening emissions standards, improving fuel economy, and fuel efficiency and emissions reductions for heavy duty trucks. If acted on, this executive order is a substantial government effort to reduce the number of polluting vehicles on American roads, a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. The folks at The Climate Reality Project reflect my view, “Now we are moving in the right direction.”

Not so fast, said Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, whose state devotes significant corn acreage to producing ethanol for automotive use. She apparently heard this executive order was coming and had the following statement ready to go the same afternoon.

President Biden’s short-sighted stance on electric vehicles is undermining Iowa’s renewable fuel industry while simultaneously jeopardizing America’s energy independence. This announcement follows the Biden Administration’s failure to support renewable fuels in the infrastructure package currently being negotiated in Congress. It’s a harmful pattern that must be reversed.

With the policies we see coming out of Washington, it’s never been more important that Iowa fights for renewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel while looking for new ways to invest in the high-quality products we produce right here, right now in our state.

Press release from the Office of the Iowa Governor via email, Aug. 5, 2021.

I couldn’t disagree more with Governor Reynolds. 53 percent of Iowa’s corn crop goes to ethanol production, according to Iowa Corn. A third of that makes a livestock feed co-product and the rest into ethanol fuel. One did not need to be a psychic to predict farmers were not going to like it when passenger cars, SUVs and light trucks all go electric, likely in my lifetime. The better action for the governor–than propping up the internal combustion engine in automobiles and light trucks–is determining the future use of those corn acres once ethanol is no longer needed as a fuel.

Either we have the political will to address the climate crisis or we don’t. It seems clear President Biden is willing to take bold action to address global warming, as evidenced by his direction on electrifying cars and light trucks. While some in the environmental movement say he is not bold enough, last week’s executive order would never have been signed by a Republican president. Governor Reynolds’ pushback was predictable and an argument for maintaining a status quo that has not been good for Iowa in terms of soil depletion, air quality, water quality, crop diversity, and economic and environmental sustainability.

As this plays out in coming weeks and months, the dynamic between the White House and Iowa’s Republican governor will be important to watch. What shall we do to address the climate crisis? According to President Biden we can and must do something. Moving toward electric transportation vehicles is a positive step, even though farmers will have to adjust. We have to do more to address the climate crisis.

Despite the debate and inevitable conflict, the country has to adjust to our future needs. The debate between government and farmers is not new. It has never been more important as the future livability of our planet is at stake. It’s now or never on climate.