Some readers have complained recently that I’m too negative. Criticizing the powers that be as an election approaches can leave that impression, especially among supporters of those powers.
I’ve thought it over and have resolved to turn over a new leaf. Or maybe some of the old leaves starting to cover my yard. Grab a rake, nattering nabob.
But maybe next week. Not this week. Blame the climate.
Ulrike Passe, an associate professor of architecture and director of the Center for Building Energy Research at Iowa State University and Jerry Schnoor, co-director of the Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research at the University of Iowa stopped by our shop to deliver the eighth annual Iowa Climate Statement. It’s signed by 201 science faculty and researchers at Iowa colleges and universities.
The thrust of this year’s statement is we’re going to need buildings and infrastructure in the future that can handle and withstand new realities spawned by a changing climate. In Iowa, we’re already seeing more frequent heavy rain and flooding as a warmer Gulf of Mexico pumps more moisture into the Midwest. Heat waves in Iowa, the statement contends, also will intensify in years to come.
The Iowa statement came on the heels of a report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which argues, without herculean efforts to reduce carbon emissions, we’ll see severe effects not in a generation or two but by 2040, and maybe sooner.
Schnoor said we’re already on our way to doubling the punch delivered by the most extreme rainfall events recorded annually. What were once widespread two-inch rainfall events will now average four inches. Previous research notes what was once considered a so-called 100-year flood in Iowa is now more like a 25-year flood.
That research was conducted on behalf of the Iowa Department of Transportation, which needs to know how to build durable bridges and roads that can stand up to extreme conditions. Passe said the city of Des Moines has been working with her center on strategies for making homes and buildings more resilient in the face of a changing climate.
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But under our climate-controlled Golden Dome of Wisdom at the Statehouse, these reports barely make a ripple. There’s the next election and then … who cares?
Republicans who run the joint and Gov. Kim Reynolds signed off on legislation this spring cutting millions of dollars from energy efficiency programs at the behest of large utilities. Funding for stuff like home weatherization, insulation and tree planting — the sort of efforts prescribed to mitigate climate consequences — has been slashed. Money to help low-income Iowans weatherize their homes, many of them older and most vulnerable to worsening weather, is being cut by as much as 50 percent.
The SAVE penny sales tax already on the books to help schools pay for upgrades to aging schoolhouses and new facilities clearly needs to be extended. But lawmakers have balked, some hoping to tie its future to school vouchers and other unrelated issues.
Eight years after voters approved the creation of a Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund, which would provide millions of dollars for efforts to control worsening runoff, marring water quality, eroding soil and spawning floods, lawmakers have refused to fill it with a needed sales tax increase. Maybe the next election will change things.
What I am positive of is that writing about this will bring me more charges of negativity. I mentioned climate in a recent column, prompting a reader to claim I’m blaming President Donald Trump for our recent rains. Not exactly.
But I am puzzled why Trump supporters aren’t more interested in addressing these issues.
The president will rail against NFL players who kneel during the national anthem, arguing, incorrectly, they’re disrespecting our flag and military. Meanwhile, a Pentagon report issued earlier this year found that 50 percent of U.S. military installations around the globe face increased risks from climate-related threats.
That’s bad news for our troops, our bases and likely our flags. And that’s not to mention the potential wars and conflicts that could be spawned around a heating planet. If you enjoyed wars over oil, you’ll love wars for water and food.
“Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee last year, as reported by Time magazine. Mattis is hardly some tree-hugger.
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The president preaches often about the many dangers of immigration. According to the UN report, a potential 3.6-degree global temperature rise could drive tens of millions of people to flee the overheated tropics. That big, beautiful wall may have to be a whole lot bigger.
The president famously handed out hats in Iowa promising to “Make Farmers Great Again.” But farming isn’t all that great when fields are flooded, or baked, or when critical pollinating insects lose their habitats.
Fiscal conservatives might be interested in the UN’s estimate that a 2.7-degree increase, which we’re well on our way to achieving, will do about $54 trillion in economic damage. How big a pile of taxpayer dollars will be needed to respond and recover from our natural disasters, crop failures, wildfires, etc.? We can’t even come up bucks for the $1 trillion infrastructure initiative the president promised.
So no, I don’t blame the president or his backers for the rain. I’d just remind them the rain will not fall only on gloomy, failing liberals, soaking their Sunday New York Times. Rising sea levels won’t just inundate blue-state coastal elites. A haywire climate will own the libs and Trumpians alike. I know that’s a bummer.
But, on the other hand, it’s going to be great for businesses such as HESCO, sump pump manufacturers and the hilltop Midwestern real estate market. And you thought I couldn’t be positive.
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