As voters in Iowa head to the polls, remember this: A vote for climate action is a vote for farmers, jobs, and health.
On the other side of the coronavirus epidemic, solving climate change is the next big task for our country. It can’t be done without leadership by Iowans, especially our farmers.
Iowa farmer leadership is essential if we want to meet the many challenges facing our state: trade wars, loss of markets, virus-related closures, and climate-related disasters like the floods of 2019 and the derecho of 2020.
When we support candidates that empower farmers to reduce carbon emissions and sequester carbon, we are making our state more resilient in the face of the next challenge or disaster.
There are many climate solutions that can only be achieved on a large scale by farmers, including carbon sequestration, soil health management, local food markets, and renewable energy. As the world gets serious about reducing emissions and capturing more carbon than we emit, we need our farmers, our world-class universities, and our agricultural sector at the table designing policy and making decisions.
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Farmer-led climate solutions can build markets, diversify income streams, and help revitalize rural communities. Think about the increase in jobs and the diversity of suppliers needed to implement practices on a broad scale to sequester carbon and retain nutrients on the land. This is a real growth opportunity for communities across Iowa. We need to vote for candidates who will act on climate to make this opportunity a reality.
This is not a choice between production or conservation. It’s a choice for production and environmental services. It will require realigned federal and state policies. It also will require farm-based innovation and advanced technology mixed with more traditional wisdom about land and livestock management.
Farm leadership is critical. So too are the jobs and health benefits of climate action.
Over 100,000 Iowans lost their jobs as businesses closed because of coronavirus. We can employ these Iowans with climate change solutions — such as renewable energy, green buildings, bio-based manufacturing, and infrastructure. These industries already employ tens of thousands in Iowa and are ready for rapid expansion in both rural and urban communities.
In Iowa, we don’t have any fossil fuel production, but we do have advanced biofuels, wind power, and solar power, and the industrial supply chains that support clean energy production.
For 21st Century transportation, we need more electric vehicles (charged by renewable energy produced in Iowa) and the infrastructure to support them. We also need more advanced biofuels. It’s not an either-or choice, as some have said. Liquid fuels are not going away, but in the future every drop of liquid fuels should come from products grown on a farm, not extracted from fossil fuels.
Improving public health also requires climate solutions, especially in the aftermath of the coronavirus. Already we know that fossil fuel pollution increases the chances of asthma and other respiratory conditions. Now, there is evidence that pollution makes people more vulnerable to contracting coronavirus and suffering its worst consequences. Cleaning up our air and water with wind, solar, and other farmer-led climate solutions will improve the health of all Iowans.
In communities across Iowa, we have great opportunities to green up our houses and commercial buildings, both new construction and renovations. These solutions avoid carbon pollution, save consumers money, and improve indoor air quality — a significant win-win-win opportunity for our state.
Other climate solutions, like walkable communities and restoring forests, prairies, and wetlands, also improve community health and recreation in rural and urban communities alike.
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Make no mistake: Addressing the climate crisis as a moral imperative for our children and our future, especially in light of the damage already being done by record-breaking floods in Iowa, hurricanes on the Gulf Coast, and wildfires out West.
But climate action also presents incredible economic opportunities for farm income, jobs, and health benefits in Iowa, which we urgently need after the coronavirus epidemic. We can help protect our people and our property from the growing dangers of climate change and achieve a healthier and more prosperous future by voting for climate action.
Rob Hogg is a state senator from Cedar Rapids and author of “America’s Climate Century” (2013).