Guest Columnist

Ernst had a choice, now Iowans pay

Photo courtesy of Iowa Department of Transportation

This photo shows a road destroyed by flooding during the 2008 flood of the Cedar River near Atalissa in Muscatine County. Climate change figures to increase spring precipitation, leading to more floods.
Photo courtesy of Iowa Department of Transportation This photo shows a road destroyed by flooding during the 2008 flood of the Cedar River near Atalissa in Muscatine County. Climate change figures to increase spring precipitation, leading to more floods.

On October 17, Sen. Joni Ernst had a choice.

She had a choice to put Iowans first and vote against the Trump administration’s so-called Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule — a dirty power scam that does nothing to address our climate crisis or accelerate our transition to clean energy. The alternative was to side with corporate polluters and their cadre of well-heeled lobbyists.

When the time came to cast her vote, Sen. Ernst made the wrong choice and voted to uphold the ACE rule. Iowans are paying the price.

From record-level flooding to devastating droughts and rising temperatures, communities across Iowa are hurting from the impacts of climate change. Driven by increased carbon pollution, extreme weather events are becoming more common and more deadly. Just last March, severe flooding caused $2 billion in damages and destroyed the livelihood of hundreds of farmers throughout the state. Between 1990 and 2019, Iowa had 44 presidentially-declared disasters. And extreme heat driven by climate change is putting nearly 70,000 Iowans at risk.

I come from a fifth generation Iowa family. I’ve seen my fair share of 100-year-floods and “once-in-a-lifetime” droughts. But let me be crystal clear when I say that what we’re experiencing now isn’t normal. Our climate is changing past the point of recognition and if we don’t take meaningful steps to curb our carbon pollution, we’ll soon be past the point of no return.

We need real solutions. The ACE Rule isn’t one of them.

The ACE rule would increase carbon pollution, slow the progress we’ve made on clean energy development and worsen the quality of the air we breathe. More alarming, it ignores the scientific consensus that curbing carbon pollution is necessary to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.

Moreover, it would also drastically limit the ability of future presidents and agencies to take action under the Clean Air Act to cut carbon pollution and tackle the climate crisis — leaving it to the states.

Ernst’s vote isn’t just disastrous on climate, it’s a missed opportunity to support Iowa’s booming clean energy economy. Our state is currently home to nearly 20,000 energy efficiency jobs and nearly 3,000 energy efficiency businesses — most of which are small businesses. I’ve been working in the renewable energy field for over 20 years now and I know firsthand how hard it can be for small businesses to stay above water. We should be leading on clean energy development and supporting our friends and neighbors.

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It’s more than apparent that Ernst’s actions are a threat to Iowa’s families and the growing clean energy economy. There’s a clear appetite for action on climate. Recently, I joined Iowa leaders in Cedar Rapids to advocate for protection of America’s clean car standards, yet another important safeguard to curb pollution that the administration is working to eviscerate.

Ernst’s vote on the ACE rule is just grossly out of step with what Iowans want and need. Her backing of the “Dirty Power Scam” is the latest evidence of that.

So, the next time the Missouri River swallows I-29, or a prolonged drought destroys every crop in Johnson County, just remember that on October 17, Sen. Joni Ernst had a choice to stand with Iowans. And she made the wrong one.

Mike Carberry is an Iowa Farmers Union board member.

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