Monday, January 24, 2011

Iowa must change with the climate

An editorial in the Des Moines Register: Experts from all three state universities and several state agencies spent a year and a half examining climate data for Iowa going back to the 1870s. They submitted a report to the Legislature this month that makes this simple point: Climate change has already happened in Iowa. It's not a matter of computer models predicting climate change in the future. It's a matter of real measurements showing real change already.

So the question isn't whether climate change is happening. The question is, what are Iowans going to do about it? The facile answer is: nothing. Iowa can't put its climate back the way it was. But while Iowans can't change the climate, they can try to adapt intelligently to the new climate.

That's where the Legislature comes in. Bound up in tough fiscal and ideological issues, lawmakers this year might not be inclined to come to grips with adapting to climate change. But for the long-term well-being of the state, there is probably nothing more important.

In particular, the state must begin shaping policies around the reality of increased flooding, soil erosion, pollution and stream degradation. Unless the process of adaptation begins soon, Iowa faces a future in which its cities are perpetually recovering from floods and its farms are annually losing topsoil faster than it can be restored. That's a future of decline and chronic disaster.

The report, "Climate Change Impacts on Iowa 2010," documents that Iowa is, on average, slightly warmer than it used to be. The growing season is a few days longer, and winter heating-degree days are less numerous…

Cedar Falls, Iowa, June 11, 2008 -- This stairway goes down into the Cedar River which rose to a record high of 102 feet, endangering the town. Photo by Patsy Lynch/FEMA

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