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Iowa Climate Statement Links Pandemic, Climate Change And Calls For Acceptance Of Consensus Science

The derecho knocked over standing corn, but unevenly impacted fields like this one in Marshall County.
Grant Gerlock
IPR file
The August derecho knocked over standing corn, but unevenly impacted fields like this one in Marshall County. Individual weather events are not specifically tied to climate change, but models consistently suggest extreme events including droughts and heavy rains are more likely as the climate continues to change.

The 2020 Iowa Climate Statement draws parallels between the COVID-19 pandemic and the threats of climate change. In its 10th year, the statement attracted 230 signatories from colleges and universities across the state.

The four major points in the statement are:

  • science is the best guide to effectively manage public health and environmental crises;
  • preparing for environmental or public health crises saves money;
  • building resilience is a critical form of preparation, especially for the most vulnerable people;
  • stimulus money for economic recovery from the pandemic presents an opportunity to invest in more green infrastructure to help prepare for climate change hazards.

Eric Tate, an associate professor of geographical and sustainability sciences at the University of Iowa, says the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic offers lessons that could help Iowa prepare for hazards that climate change may bring.

“Planning for resilience offers a pathway to address inequities and disaster impacts,” he says. “Resilient communities and households have a greater ability to withstand disruption and absorb impacts from climate hazards as well as adapt to change.”

He says officials and emergency planners should pay particular attention to how the most vulnerable Iowans fare during the pandemic.

“What we learn, how we’re addressing these vulnerable populations, if they’re doing well or not, these are lessons I think that can be directly applied to climate change hazards,” Tate says.

The climate statement also urges acceptance of consensus science, for both climate change and public health.

“The best available science as described by professional organizations remains by far the most reliable source of information. In the face of political polarization, some have taken up the strategy of de-legitimizing science when it leads to conclusions that go against their policy goals,” the statement reads. “But distrust in expert guidance and delayed action led to increased deaths and economic loss in the U.S.”

The other lead authors of the statement are: David Courard-Hauri, Chair of Environmental Science and Sustainability, Drake University; Greg Carmichael, co-director, UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research; Ulrike Passe, Director, Center for Building Energy Research, Iowa State University; Silvia Secchi, Associate Professor, Department of Geographical and Sustainability Sciences, University of Iowa; and Gene Takle, Emeritus Professor of Agronomy at Iowa State University.

Those signing the statement come from 37 Iowa colleges and universities.

Amy Mayer is a reporter based in Ames