Branstad lacks answers on climate

Gov. Terry Branstad stopped by our shop on Tuesday.

He arrived, along with Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, to talk about his legislative agenda. He knows it inside and out. There wasn't a question about school reform, tax relief or economic development that he couldn't answer. These are issues he cares about.

Near the tail end of the session, I asked the governor about the ongoing drought, the large number of scientists, including Iowans, who say this is what we can expect if our climate continues changing, and whether that worries him.

“Well, I guess ... People always, whatever's happening, project that into the future,” he said. “I was governor in the '80s when they were projecting that our population would go to zero because our population was declining. Well, we turned that around in the late '80s. And we've been growing modestly since.

“I guess I don't necessarily buy that. I was also governor during the drought of the late '80s, the flood of ‘93, and you know we had the flood year of ‘98 ... Weather's gonna change.”

My colleague, reporter Erin Jordan, asked if he believes in global warming.

“I believe that over time, we're in a cycle right now where we're experiencing warming,” Branstad said. “But we've also throughout history seen times when it's gone the other way and it's gotten colder. So, you know we had an ice age not all that long ago in this country.

“So I just think we need to do thoughtful things, conserve energy,” Branstad said, before explaining his opposition to mandatory measures that could have serious economic consequences.

I wasn't expecting Branstad to detail his latest scientific theories on the subject. I also wasn't trying to play gotcha. And before anyone gets too snarky, the last glacier entered Iowa about 15,000 years ago. In geologic time, that's not all that long ago.

A few months back, I wrote that I hope our state leaders will, at least, be more curious about the possible consequences of climate change. Dig in, learn more and consider responsible actions.

So, with that in mind, I asked the governor. And it's pretty clear that he hasn't given this issue a lot of thought. That's disappointing. He needs to give it more of his attention, especially given its potential to affect those issues he truly cares about.

As governor of a state so dependent on its climate, in the midst of a stubborn drought and after natural disasters exacted a heavy cost in recent years, these questions are going to be asked. The governor should have better answers.

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