Climate change is affecting Iowans’ lives and work in the form of longer growing seasons, increased precipitation and temperatures and transition in the state’s prominent insurance industry, according to a report released this week.
Researchers from the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa conducted the report, “Climate Change Impacts on Iowa,” and they said they hope it brings awareness and informs future discussions.
“We are already living with climate change, and we need to be aware of its ramifications for planning for the future,” said Jerry Schnoor, a UI professor of civil and environmental engineering who helped write the report. “We’re hoping some of these recommendations will be incorporated into future state law, but some of them are meant more for the city and county level.”
Better disaster and flood planning, improvements to infrastructure, more concern about public health problems resulting from climate change and prevention of soil erosion by restoring wetlands and buffer zones are some initiatives Schnoor hopes to see.
The issues of climate change — more frequent flooding, for example — are going to be and already have been expensive to cope with, UNI biology professor and committee member Laura Jackson said.
“High-intensity storms and climate extremes are part of the normal climate, but they are becoming more frequent than happening just by chance,” Jackson said.
Iowa’s native species also are being affected by climate change, the report says. Birds and wildflowers are showing up earlier in the spring than in the past.
The impact on agriculture is positive and negative, researchers say. There is a longer growing season, and corn and soybean yields have risen steadily since the 1940s. But there is also increased soil erosion and water runoff and increased replanting of damaged croplands because of more precipitation.
“The economic ramifications of Iowa’s changing climate will continue to unfold in coming decades, with declines in agricultural productivity anticipated from midcentury on as climate change produces warmer but drier conditions in Iowa,” according to the report.
Among its recommendations for state and local officials:
- Consider the rising financial and human impacts of Iowa’s recent climate trends — including more extreme rain events that can result in summer floods — in policy and appropriation decisions.
- Take strong steps to protect Iowa’s soil, water quality and long-term agricultural productivity.
- Increase investments in state programs that enhance wildlife habitat and management because changes in climate will directly affect game and non-game species.
- Ask the Iowa Department of Public Health to report annually on how changing climate is affecting the health of Iowans.
- Advocate for federal highway construction standards that consider the effects of climate change.
- Authorize the Iowa Insurance Division to periodically issue reports and recommendations about the risks and costs of property insurance related to climate-related claims and payouts.
The full report is available at www.iowadnr.gov/iccac/files/completereport.pdf.The Courier’s Emily Christensen contributed to this report.