Is Climate Change Affecting Iowa?

A group of scientists across the state released a statement saying yes, climate change is affecting Iowa.

Published on: Dec 2, 2011

Scientists from across Iowa issued a statement in mid-November re-affirming that climate change is real and urging candidates for public office to acknowledge the science of climate change and present "appropriate" policy responses. The statement, signed by 31 scientists from 22 different colleges and universities in Iowa, was delivered to Iowa Governor Terry Branstad's office and was available for participants in the Iowa Energy Forum November 16 in Des Moines.

In the statement, the scientists point out that Iowa is already experiencing the effects of climate change, such as increased precipitation, and that those changes have "clear connections to changes in global climate."

"All major scientific societies and the US National Academy of Science have affirmed that the recent rise in greenhouse gases in the global atmosphere has contributed to changes in our climate," the scientists say.  Additional climate changes will challenge farmers and planners "to maintain the prosperity of our state and its role in national and global food security."

They see it as an issue all candidates for elected office need to address

"I believe it is important for Iowans to know that scientists who live and work in communities across our state understand that climate change is real and has serious implications for our future," said David Courard-Hauri, assistant professor of environmental science and policy at Drake University. "This is an issue that all candidates for elected office, from city council to President of the United States, should acknowledge and address through public policy."

The statement was drafted by four climate science researchers at Iowa State University, including Prof. Gene Takle, Director, Climate Science Program, Iowa State University.  Prof. Courard-Hauri organized the scientists from other colleges and universities who signed on to the statement. The full text of the statement and the signatories to the statement are provided below. 

Climate Science and Public Policy in Iowa--November, 2011

The productive soils and favorable climate of Iowa underpin the economy of our State. Over the last half-century our farmers have adapted to changing conditions to keep Iowa ranked as one of the leading agriculture states in the US. We take well-earned pride in our contributions to national and global food security.

Changes in rainfall patterns and other climate indicators have emerged as the latest and potentially the most serious challenge to Iowans' lives and livelihoods. Subtle changes in climate can have large effects on agriculture, making it a sensitive indicator of climate change. Statewide data show changes in temperature, precipitation, and humidity over the last forty years affecting Iowa's producers. In recent decades a longer growing season, more precipitation, and lack of extreme high daytime temperatures have contributed to improved crop yields in our State. But the accompanying increase in extreme rainfall events, higher humidity, and higher nighttime temperatures have required costly adaptations.

Like its farmers, Iowa's cities and rural communities, which provide our infrastructure, educational opportunities, and cultural amenities, also have felt the effects of a changing climate. Over the last 40 years intense rainfall has occurred about five times more often than in our previous history. As a result our communities have faced enormous expense to recover from repeated "500-year" floods. Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Iowa City, and Ames all have suffered multi-million dollar losses from floods since 1993. In 2008 alone, 85 of Iowa's 99 counties were declared federal disaster areas.

These changes in Iowa's climate have clear connections to changes in global climate and to changes in how we use the land. As the global climate continues to evolve, our farmers and city planners will face new challenges to maintain the prosperity of our state and its role in national and global food security. All major scientific societies and the US National Academy of Science have affirmed that the recent rise in greenhouse gases in the global atmosphere has contributed to changes in our climate. We urge all candidates for public office at national, state, and local levels to acknowledge the overwhelming balance of evidence for the underpinning causes of climate change, to develop appropriate policy responses, and to develop local and statewide strategies to adapt to near-term changes in climate.

Signed,

Chris Anderson, Climate Science Program, Iowa State University

Ray Arritt, Climate Science Program, Iowa State University

Bill Gutowski, Climate Science Program, Iowa State University

Gene Takle, Climate Science Program, Iowa State University

Mark Aronson, Department of Biology, Scott Community College

Neil Bernstein, Chair, Dept of Natural & Applied Sciences, Mount Mercy Univ.

Aaron Bunker, Department of Biology, Morningside College

David Campbell, Henry R. Luce Professor in Nations & the Global Environment and Professor of Biology, Grinnell College

David Courard-Hauri, Environmental Science & Policy Program, Drake University

Richard Cruse, Director of the Iowa Water Center and professor in the Department of Agronomy, Iowa State University

Gary Donnermeyer, Math/Science Department, Kirkwood Community College

Robert de Haan, Environmental Studies Department, Dordt College

Rhawn Denniston, Chair, Department of Geology, Cornell College

Jack Gittinger, Science Education, Simpson College

Brian Hazlett, Director, Environmental Science Program, Briar Cliff University

Laura Jackson, Professor of Biology, University of Northern Iowa

M. Patrick McAdams, Division of Health and Life Science, William Penn Univ.

David McCullough, Prof. of Biology & Environmental Studies, Wartburg College

Gilbert Nebgen, Professor of Science & Math, Indian Hills Community College

Laura Peterson, Dept. of Chemistry, Environmental Studies, Luther College

Gary Phillips, Environmental Studies Dept., Iowa Lakes Community College

Thomas Rosburg, Professor of Biology, Drake University

Melanie Hansen Sadeghpour, Chair, Environmental Science Program, Des Moines Area Community College

Paula Sanchini, Professor of Biology, Coe College

Jerald Schnoor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Co-Director, Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, University of Iowa

Keith Summerville, Environmental Science and Policy, Drake University

Kathryn Szramek, Environmental Science and Policy, Drake University

Martin St. Clair, Professor of Chemistry, Coe College

Tracy Todd, Associate Professor of Biology, Northwestern College

Paul Weihe, Biology & Environmental Science, Central College

Danielle Wirth, Environmental Science Department, Des Moines Area Community College

*The views expressed herein are those of the individual signatories, and do not necessarily represent the views of the institutions with which they are affiliated.