This month world leaders recently gathered in Paris for the 2015 U.N. Climate Change Conference. For those of us in the rural Midwest, this event is easy to dismiss. After all, Paris is thousands of miles away, and the direst consequences of climate change will likely take place far into the future.
Carbon sequestration and the role of soils are a big part of the discussion. For the Midwest, this is an opportunity. States like Iowa are uniquely positioned to play an outsized role when it comes to mitigating climate change. The key is to take advantage of the resources at our disposal.
For instance, both Iowa State and the University of Iowa are experimenting with the use of Miscanthus, a large perennial grass, to help offset the use of coal at local generation facilities. The benefits are threefold:
• First, perennial grasses do an excellent job of helping to restore soil and improve water quality.
• Second, using Miscanthus to displace coal means less carbon pollution will enter the atmosphere.
• Third, Miscanthus is known to hold great potential for carbon sequestration.
This example emphasizes just how intertwined agriculture and climate change really are, and can help us think more innovatively about our role as the Paris conferences continue.
It also shows that this is something we should be talking more about. Climate change and agriculture are both a big part of Iowa’s future. The 2016 presidential campaign is the perfect place to start.
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As candidates continue to crisscross the state, there is no shortage of opportunity to talk about Iowa’s position as a world leader in agriculture. This is especially true for Republicans jockeying for position in a crowded field. Many are on record as denying climate change exists. Others openly question the role we humans play.
This is unacceptable. The time has passed for skepticism, avoidance, and ignorance of science. Iowa voters demand more.
We are in a fortunate position. Because we depend on land and soils for so much of our economy, we have countless opportunities to make a difference. Mitigating and adapting to climate change is a big task, and everyone will need to do their part.
But getting started requires leadership.
• Johnathan Hladik is Rural Policy Director at the Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons, Nebraska. More information: http://www.cfra.org