To follow up on Gary Duneman’s opinion piece in the Bremer County Independent encouraging eligible voters to participate in the upcoming Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3, I want to emphasize that this caucus has the potential to unite us on the common issue of climate change, especially if younger people show up.
The climate crisis is the only real issue facing us. The latest emissions report shows we’re on track to warm the planet by over ten degrees Fahrenheit sometime this century. The last time the planet was this hot, 95% of all life perished. Look at what’s happening in Australia and you will get a glimpse of what is in store for us. If this one problem isn’t met head on, then nothing, absolutely nothing else matters. The younger you are, the bigger your stake is in electing a president and congress that will make climate change its highest priority.
The choice next November should be easy. One party is controlled by Big Oil, Coal, and Gas. Their goal is to make tons of money and they don’t care if the planet becomes unlivable for humans. They are owned by old men and their fathers, who don’t expect to be alive in 2050 and don’t care for a second whether you are alive or not. They don’t even care about their own kids’ lives.
The other major political party does care about you now and in the future and it has several very good presidential candidates who have put forward plans to address the climate crisis. The following website provides a recent, concise summary of their plans: https://www.vox.com/2019/9/10/20851109/2020-democrats-climate-change-plan-president. Their plans are broad, expensive, and a bit vague at present, but they all come down to one thing — immediate action is absolutely necessary no matter what the cost.
The presidential candidates are big thinkers and I’m only a small thinker, but I can easily come up with three areas where Iowa can make a difference on climate change.
The first is with agriculture, which is blamed for producing 25% of carbon emissions. The effects of climate change are already being felt daily by farmers, but few solutions have been advanced on how to help farmers or how farmers can help with the crisis. Most farmers I know already practice no till, rotate crops, and use livestock wastes as fertilizer, and perhaps these good farming practices need to be expanded. But there are two ways government can help even more. One is to encourage farmers to plant cover crops by paying them to do it. The second is to pay farmers to grow prairie grass on a percentage of their crop ground and make it economically worth their while. Because of its deep roots, prairie grass is an effective carbon sink almost as good as trees. Paying farmers to plant trees for shelterbelts would provide additional carbon sinks and help prevent soli erosion to combat the expected onset of dust bowlification mid-century. Taking crop land out of production for prairie would also provide price support by curbing over production.
Iowa is already a leader in wind power, but more needs to be done with solar power. There are ways the government can encourage people to invest in solar through tax credits and mandating it for all new construction. The production of electricity accounts for 30% of carbon emissions from coal. In spite of Trump’s effort to promote coal, it continues to be in decline in the U.S., but not fast enough and coal use is increasing worldwide. There’s no reason why carbon produced from electric power production can’t be brought to zero in Iowa by 2030.
Transportation also accounts for 30% of carbon emissions. The future of transportation may be something totally unforeseen, but the electric vehicle appears to be it for the time being and the conversion to it has to be advanced quickly. Setting goals, standards, and regulations will not get the job done. There has to be a carbon tax on gas and oil production. It will be immensely unpopular and few candidates have been brave enough to put it into their plan. It’s possible to structure a plan that is fair and effective. It should start low and increase over the next ten years to bring carbon emissions to net zero in the transportation industry. Here too, Iowa can become a leader with a state carbon tax. Even a few cents per gallon could generate a lot of money that could be used to help the State of Iowa, especially agriculture, adapt to climate change.