Iowa scientists warn of need for climate change action

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A group of scientists in the top U.S. grain-growing state of Iowa said on Monday that this year's harsh drought was a sign of things to come and should spur more action to prepare for the challenges of a warming climate.

"Weather varies too much and has too many drivers to attribute any particular event to a single cause like climate change, but there is a clear pattern of crop loss and property damage from increasingly frequent events such as flooding, drought and dangerous storms," said Dave Courard-Hauri, chairman of Drake University's Environmental Science and Policy Program, at a press briefing.

"We don't face a choice between our economy and the planet. The choice is between addressing the causes and effects of climate change or spending ever more money cleaning up from events like we've seen in the past several years," he said.

The top grower of U.S. corn and soybeans, the two biggest cash grain crops, Iowa is also a big hog and cattle producer. Iowa and Illinois together produce about one-third of the nation's corn and soybeans for food, feed and fuels.

The 2012 drought, the most intense in more than a half century, cut Iowa's corn output by 19 percent and soybeans by 14 percent from last year, according to government crop estimates.

Livestock and dairy producers, with less insurance protection, are being hit hardest as feed and forage prices soar, causing farmers to cull herds or go out of business.

Christopher Anderson, the assistant director of Iowa State University's climate science program, says there is "clear, statistical evidence" that extreme high temperatures are happening more often than extreme low temperatures in Iowa.

"Since 1981, the likelihood of severely wet springs has more than doubled. What was once a one-in-10-year wet spring is now occurring two to three times in every 10 years," he said. "Yet 2012 reminds us that dry summers can still happen. The 2012 July and August statewide rainfall was the lowest since 1976."

Jerald Schnoor, co-director of the University of Iowa's Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, said state policymakers should use 2012 climate data to make new decisions, like doubling wind energy production and using methane from livestock manure and city sewage treatment plants.

"We have confidence in recent findings that climate change is real and having an impact on the Iowa economy and on our natural resources," Schnoor said.

The group issued an "Iowa Climate Statement" signed by 138 scientists at 27 Iowa colleges and universities.

"The climate likely will continue to warm due to increasing global emissions and accumulation of greenhouse gases," the statement said. "Iowa should lead innovation in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improve resilience in agriculture and communities, and move towards greater energy efficiency and increased use of renewable energy."

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Uk  |  November, 21, 2012 at 08:50 AM

There has been no increase in temperatures since the late 1990s. To blame human activity on the more severe weather is conjecture. Association is not the same as cause, this is a basic scientific rule.

Tony Newbill    
powell butte oregon  |  November, 21, 2012 at 09:07 AM

David Have we Heard any of these Expert Scientists talk about what Is REALLY effecting our Earth's Climate to Change ??? I think they are using this Climate Change theory as a Reason to make changes in FREE Market Liberty that enables a Individual Society to be Prosperous and that is the real concern to the technocrats who want to Employee the techniques of the Kissinger NSSM200 policy , as they see this as the real threat to the Earth’s Eco system .

Minnesota  |  November, 21, 2012 at 09:43 AM

So then what caused the extended drought in the 30s? or late 1800'ds? We were digging post holes near a swamp on our farm, and about six feet down found a 1/2 inch layer of well preserved upland grasses, surrounded by black muck above and below that layer. That means 1000++ years ago, this area had a very significant shift in climate that lasted < 100 years. People seem to think the climate never changes. Fact is the climate used to change much more dramatically than it does today.

November, 21, 2012 at 11:28 AM

If elitist politicians & their like-minded "scientists" believe they can directly alter the climate by further regulating agriculture, their inevitable penalties and fines become a significant feed source for the increasingly fascist government they are goose-stepping along side of. A profitable dairy industry is much more than a healthy "tax cow" to milk--she's also an unsuspecting donor from which to bleed off penalties and fines. Like I was taught early on in veterinary school, " ALL bleeding stops---eventually.

clear lake, wi  |  November, 21, 2012 at 04:22 PM

The big question is "Who paid for the study?" That should be all anyone needs to ask. Been up and down that road before. I know it is only coincidental that the study favors the agenda (product) the one paying for it requests. Yep, coincidental.

TN  |  November, 25, 2012 at 06:56 PM

Please note that these "scientists" no longer use Global Warming because there is no trend in that direction. It is now Climate Change to cover anything. They use scare tactics instead of sound data. Why? Because there is no sound data. Just look at the statistical data of Mr. Anderson. It was all the way back to 1976 when Iowa had rainfall that low. If you look at the statistics it will show over a long period these dry years happen about every 25 to 35 years and vary in the regions in this country and the world. Even before the evil SUV came along. What this group of scientist and others around the globe want is more government grant money to do research. This will take years and millions of taxpayers dollars to reach some slanted conclusion yet keep them doing "vital" research to save the planet while saving there jobs. This is a cap and trade money and power grab scheme all the way.

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