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.
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.
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!
The 26th Conference of the Parties in Glasgow, Scotland seemed like a dud. My friend Rob Hogg corrected me on Twitter, posting:
So there were some positive developments. I’m reminded that zero countries is the number living up to their 2015 commitments to reduce greenhouse gases at COP 21 in Paris, France. It is difficult to let go the negativity when it comes to our collective lack of action on climate change.
On a video call a friend asked if we had installed solar panels to generate electricity for our home. I know our financial condition well enough to say it is unlikely we will because of the up front capital expense. We are doing okay financially yet know our limits.
“When it comes to climate change, we can’t afford to go backward—or even stay where we are,” former president Barack Obama said. “If we are going to act on the scale that’s required to combat this climate crisis, we all need to step up and meet this moment together.”
What does “together” mean? It means governments and a select group of non-governmental organizations and rich people that have the means to address climate change at scale. Behind Obama’s statement is the assumption we live in a democracy. Increasingly, we don’t, as floods of dark money buy our government, including the court system. An individual’s local actions matter, yet they are not enough, especially if one is the only person on the block generating electricity from solar panels.
Former Vice President Al Gore weighed in on COP 26:
Statement from Former US Vice President Al Gore on the Outcome of COP 26
“The Glasgow Climate Pact and the pledges made at COP 26 move the global community forward in our urgent work to address the climate crisis and limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C, but we know this progress, while meaningful, is not enough. We must move faster to deliver a just transition away from fossil fuels and toward a cleaner and more equitable future for our planet.
The progress achieved in the lead-up to and at COP 26 was only possible because of the power of people – young and old – using their voices to demand action.
Thanks to that advocacy, for the first time in 26 negotiations, leaders at COP 26 agreed to language that calls for a phase down of coal power and fossil fuel subsidies – a critically important step forward. Even more important, the deal significantly accelerates the timeline for nations to revisit and strengthen their net zero goals, calling for updates from every nation by the end of next year and a global convening by the UN Secretary General in 2023 to focus on more ambitious goals for cutting emissions dramatically by 2030. But despite that progress, there is much more that must be done – especially to deliver meaningful climate finance for both mitigation and adaptation to developing nations.
Ultimately, the outcome of COP 26 shows us that it has never been more important to hold our leaders accountable to their words and pledges. Advocates for climate action cannot – and must not – let up.
Six years ago, the Paris Agreement set a clear direction of travel that is moving the world away from greenhouse gas pollution and toward a sustainable future. The deal reached at COP 26 reflects the progress we’ve made in the intervening years and shows that the global community of nations is now in agreement that the era of inaction on the climate crisis must come to a swift end.”
Now is the time for government leaders, policymakers, business leaders, consumers, and activists in every nation to redouble their efforts and use the Glasgow Climate Pact as a springboard from which to drive bold action that will keep the goals of the Paris Agreement alive.”
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the scale of the climate change problem. It is a problem, although against all reasonable efforts to educate, even that is in question for many people.
I wrote to my federal elected officials about how climate change impacted my life. I heard back from Rep. Miller-Meeks and Senator Grassley and am assessing their responses. I’m using my voice to raise the issue with my federal elected officials. Their response falls flat.
We have the tools we need to solve the climate crisis. That seems certain. Yet a society that is interested in supporting the richest among us more than taking care of each other is morally bankrupt.
The latest revelations about the Trump administration’s efforts to manipulate the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic are evidence that the highest office in government was willing to use mass-death as a political weapon at a cost of hundreds of thousands of lives. What kind of human can support that? Yet Trump flags fly unabated in our neighborhood. It is clear the previous administration was going to do nothing about the climate crisis. If they get back in office after the 2024 elections, they will set about undoing what Biden got started to address climate change and more.
In this context it is important to ask, “What will it take on climate change?” From these quotations and more, we know it will take action on a scale only governments can provide. Yet we can’t be reduced to helping political candidates we favor get elected. There is something more at stake. Regardless who holds political office, governments must act on climate change. There will come a time, and soon, when it will become obvious to even the most prominent naysayers we have to act. So we keep plugging away and hope we are not already too late.
Like it or not, Iowa Republicans have hoodwinked us into a carbon capture and sequestration method of addressing the climate crisis. It is common sense that hooking a polluting ethanol plant, coal-fired electricity generating station, or a propane grain drying operation to a mechanism for carbon capture does nothing to address the root cause of pollution. Nonetheless, here we go.
On June 22, 2021, Governor Kim Reynolds “signed Executive Order 9 launching a task force to explore carbon sequestration and the opportunities it presents for further economic development in the state of Iowa,” according to a press release.
Because of our existing supply chain and emphasis on renewable fuel infrastructure, Iowa is in a strong position to capitalize on the growing nationwide demand for a more carbon free economy. Iowa is a recognized leader in renewable fuel and food production, and this is another opportunity to lead and be innovative, invest in Iowa agriculture, and facilitate new sources of revenue for our agriculture and energy sectors. I am proud to bring together an impressive team of stakeholders that will help formulate smart, commonsense policy recommendations on this issue ahead of the 2022 legislative session.
When we talk about the decarbonization imperative across the global economy, carbon capture and sequestration has only limited use. As is typical of statements from the Iowa governor, there was no mention of the climate crisis in the release.
Having been forced to deal with carbon capture and sequestration as a public issue, advocates need references to understand what it is, its consequences, and risks. Below are some links to get started. Expect this post to be updated as new information is found and becomes available.
How to submit an objection with the Iowa Utilities Board:
Written comments or objections to the proposed pipeline can be filed electronically using the IUB’s Open Docket Comment Form, by email to email@example.com, or by postal mail to the Iowa Utilities Board, Attn: Docket No. HLP-2021-0003 (Navigator) and/or Docket No. HLP-2021-0001 (Summit) , 1375 E. Court Ave., Des Moines, IA 50319.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I brought a generous pound of potatoes and two pints of canned vegetable broth from downstairs. There was an almost forgotten patch of leeks in the garden so I made leek and potato soup for dinner. With some sliced apples from our tree, spread with peanut butter, it made a meal.
It has taken some work to get the soup right. While sauteing the leeks and diced onion, seasoned with salt, in some of the vegetable broth I peeled and cut the potatoes into a half-inch dice. I added them to the leek-onion mixture with enough broth to just cover them. The Dutch oven simmered on low heat until the potatoes were soft.
Next I added a tablespoon of arrowroot powder mixed with water, then a cup of oat milk, and then two cups of frozen corn. It simmered a half hour. I added sliced chives from the garden and it was ready to serve. We don’t blend the soup to get a smooth texture, although one could. The key is reducing additions of cooking liquid so the soup thickens. Arrowroot helped.
I finished reading Poet Warrior: A Memoir by Joy Harjo this morning. Harjo is poet laureate of the United States. It was moving in a way other memoirs have not been. It had me thinking about my own life and how it differed and was similar to hers. Now that I’ve tended to my mother’s death bed, reading her story about her mother’s death resonated. I had not previously known of her connection to the University of Iowa Writers Workshop. Maybe what she learned there makes it easy to relate to the narrative. Highly recommend.
Our vehicle is in the shop getting a wheel bearing changed. The mechanics work was made difficult by rust formed on the chassis and undercarriage during our 20 years of ownership. They can do this work, but parts are becoming less available. “It’s not a long-term keeper,” my mechanic said of the vehicle. This is the second or third conversation we’ve had about the rust. Now I’m asking the question, “what kind of vehicle does a septuagenarian need to make it until he can no longer drive?” No answers yet, but thoughts.
The future of transportation is electrification, especially for passenger vehicles and light trucks. If I planned to keep a vehicle for a few years, then trade it, I would have no issue going electric now. We didn’t win the lottery last night and can afford to buy just one car to last. Electrification of automobiles is in transition presently, so as technology develops, who knows if what goes on the market today will be eclipsed by newer technology tomorrow? Well we do know. It will be eclipsed because there will be issues. I’ve worked with Original Equipment Manufacturers enough to know this.
I’m leaning toward a new Toyota Prius which operates with excellent fuel economy and has been on the market long enough to have bugs worked out of it. It is the right size for the two of us and I’ve ridden in them with friends on many occasions. We have a dealer in the county seat that posted a starting price of $28,814. Pricing is negotiable and dependent on specifications. I’d rather just keep the car we have but if repair parts are unavailable and the undercarriage rusts through, our hand is forced.
Once the wheel bearing is replaced we should be good to go for a while. A while may be all we have.
The gutters overflowed with water in a recent rain storm. During the following heat and humidity I climbed the ladder to have a look. Sure enough both sides were plugged with leaves and maple tree seeds. It took less than a minute per side to clean them.
While up there I inspected the roof. The south peak is showing wear, as it is windward. The roof will be good for a while longer. It was the only planned ascension this year.
I go indoors when the heat index is in the 90s. Ten or more years ago it didn’t bother me to work hour after hour in heat and humidity. With a cooler of water bottles on ice, I had everything needed to work straight through. The record drought in 2012 raised my awareness. I began needing a break from the heat about every hour or I would get dizzy. Now I don’t push it. If the forecast is in the high eighties and it’s humid I find indoors work to do.
It’s not like the lawn needs mowing. While the two recent rains greened things a bit, most of the grass remains dormant. I don’t like mowing when it is in this condition. The number of yard and garden tasks is backlogging into a real project. There is no reason it can’t wait until the ambient temperature is cooler.
Perhaps the worst thing about drought-like conditions, combined with a resurgence of the coronavirus, is the isolation. I have intense desire to be with people. Like with the heat and humidity, I’m taking no chances and staying home.
There will be a fall, I’m certain. It will get cooler. I will work in the yard again. In the second year of the pandemic I yearn to do things with people. I’ll be ready when inhospitable conditions abate.
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