Advisory Report Tells How Climate Change is Affecting Iowa

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

University of Iowa News Release

Without even realizing it many Iowans are taking climate change into account in their daily lives. Some are planting crops to take advantage of a longer growing season, while others--facing more precipitation and extreme rainfalls than 30 years ago--are installing more subsurface drainage tiles in croplands.

That is one of the findings of a report, "Climate Change Impacts on Iowa," commissioned by the Iowa legislature in April 2009 and presented by the Iowa Climate Change Impacts Committee to the Iowa General Assembly and Gov. Chet Culver on Jan. 1, 2011 (http://www.iowadnr.gov/iccac/files/completereport.pdf).

The report -- written by researchers from the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa -- says that Iowa's legislators and other leaders should:

--Consider the financial and human costs of increasing extreme rain events and other climate trends when making policy and appropriations decisions.
--Protect Iowa's soil, water quality and agriculture against climate change.
--Support programs that enhance wildlife habitat and restore public and private lands.
--Designate the Iowa Department of Public Health to report annually on the consequences of a changing climate on Iowans' health.
--Support federal highway construction standards that consider the effects of climate change.
--Authorize the Iowa Insurance Division to periodically issue reports on changing risks, property insurance costs and climate-related claims.
--Fund continuing research on climate change and its affect on Iowans.

The report also suggests that it may be even more important for individuals, businesses and government to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and thereby mitigate future climate change than to adapt to climate change.

Jerry Schnoor, committee member, Allen S. Henry Chair in Engineering, professor of civil and environmental engineering and co-director of the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research in the UI College of Engineering, is one of 11 contributing members of the committee that prepared the advisory report. Schnoor, who also chaired the governor's 2007-2010 Iowa Climate Change Advisory Council that focused on energy efficiency and renewable energy, said the new report continues that dialogue.

"Iowa produces among the highest greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per capita, but Iowa also has the capacity to benefit economically by reducing those emissions through increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy sources," said Schnoor in his introduction to the report. "Thus, we can improve our economy, our health, and the environment simultaneously by mitigating GHG emissions. Wisdom dictates that we simultaneously build climate resilience into our state’s policies and activities -– that is, that we attempt to reduce current and future climate impacts on Iowa and Iowans by adapting to climate extremes. Iowa’s Regents’ institutions and broader scientific community stand ready to work together with the state’s legislature, business community and others toward this end."

Committee member Peter Thorne, professor and head of the UI College of Public Health Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, said that sharing knowledge of potential climate-related health effects is very important, given the likely adverse effects on human health.

“Some health effects of a changing climate are already apparent in Iowa while others loom ahead,” Thorne said. “The future of Iowa’s public health will depend on the choices we make to mitigate and adapt to the changing climate.”

Other contributors from the UI include David Osterberg, associate clinical professor of occupational and environmental health, and Cornelia Mutel, author and ecologist at IIHR--Hydroscience & Engineering.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009, gary-galluzzo@uiowa.edu

Go to www.engineering.uiowa.edu/news/newsDetail.php?newsID=669 to read a Des Moines Register guest column, titled "Build Iowa's Resilience to Climate Change," by Laura Jackson, professor of biology at the University of Northern Iowa; Jerald Schnoor, professor of civil and environmental engineering at The University of Iowa; and Gene Takle professor of atmospheric science at Iowa State University. All are members of the Iowa Climate Change Impacts Committee.