A recent report authored by researchers at Iowa's three public universities says climate change is already affecting the way Iowans live and work. The report makes seven policy recommendations that begin to protect the state's economy, environment and residents from changes in climate.
"Climate change is already affecting the way Iowans live and work," says the study by the Iowa Climate Change Impacts Committee. "Without action to mitigate these affects, our future responses will become more complex and costly."
Iowa State University contributors to the report were Gene Takle, a professor of geological and atmospheric sciences and agronomy who directs the university's Climate Science Program; Richard Cruse, a professor of agronomy; Dave Swenson, an associate scientist in economics; and Natalia Rogovska, a post-doctoral research associate in agronomy.
Takle noted Iowa has experienced a long-term trend toward more precipitation, an increase in extreme summer rainfall, and warmer temperatures, particularly over the winter and at night. "Current state climate changes are linked, in very complex and sometimes yet-unknown ways, to global climate change," Takle reported. "Some changes, such as the increased frequency of precipitation extremes that lead to flooding, have seriously affected the state in a negative way. Others, such as more favorable summer growing conditions, have benefitted the state's economy."
Cruse and Rogovska reported that some recent climate changes are good for agriculture. The longer growing season and reduced drought stress have helped to increase corn and soybean yields. But, they wrote, higher monthly rainfall, more atmospheric moisture from crop transpiration and reductions in winds also create favorable conditions for crop pests and pathogens. An increase in the intensity and amount of rainfall is also increasing the erosion of soil in farm fields.
Swenson noted the most prominent impacts of climate change are likely to be seen in agriculture. Longer, warmer and wetter growing seasons should increase corn yields, and higher amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide could increase soybean yields. The result should be stable or lower food and feed costs. But, he wrote, by mid-century warmer drier conditions are expected to decrease crop yields and livestock health.
To address these impacts of a changing climate, the committee recommended seven policy initiatives:
Consider the rising financial and human impacts of Iowa's recent climate trends - including more extreme rain events that can result in summer floods - in policy and appropriation decisions.
Take strong steps to protect Iowa's soil, water quality and long-term agricultural productivity.
Increase investments in state programs that enhance wildlife habitat and management because changes in climate will directly impact game and non-game species.
Ask the Dept. of Public Health to report annually on how changing climate is affecting Iowans' health.
Advocate for federal highway construction standards that consider the effects of climate change and encourage the Iowa DOT to explore construction designs that account for trends in Iowa's climate.
Authorize the Iowa Insurance Division to periodically issue reports and recommendations about the risks and costs of property insurance related to climate-related claims and payouts.
Fund ongoing research of Iowa's climate and how climate changes will affect Iowa and Iowans.
We have publications on related topics and many other topics in our county office. Cherokee County Extension 209 Centennial Dr., Suite A, Cherokee, IA 51012, phone 712-225-6196