August 29, 2014

Iowa Senators respond to new climate report

The White House released a new climate change report today which predicts threats to agriculture including severe weather, more pests and greater demands for water and energy. Iowa State University professor Gene Takle co-authored the agriculture chapter of the 2014 National Climate Assessment. “We are going through a period where there are some favorable changes occurring that have increased production, but this isn’t likely to last,” according to Takle.

He says over time the severity of weather events and overall warming trends will be hard on agriculture. “We see that most crops and livestock are going to be challenged by climate change and that it’s very unlikely, given current technologies, that we can continue this increase in average yields,” Takle says.

Takle says farmers can play an important role in helping researchers find ways to adapt food production to new conditions. “We need to be thinking forward as to the kinds of adaptation strategies that we need to adopt while at the same time we are looking for measures to mitigate the underlying cause of climate change,” Takle says. Takle says in some ag industries-such as winemaking-farmers are already irrigating during the offseason, shading fruit, and finding other innovative ways to protect their crops.

During a conference call with reporters this morning, Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley said he would be unwilling to support climate change legislation without an international agreement. “It needs to be solved in an international treaty so that there’s a level playing field for all countries, all countries are treated the same,” Grassley said. “From my point of view it would hurt U.S. manufacturing, we’d lose more manufacturing to China and other countries.”

Grassley was asked if the U.S. could pass legislation on its own to set an example for the rest of the world. “But I’m not sold on that proposition, that the rest of the world would follow us. If they want to clean up the environment, if they want to keep jobs in the United States, the United States has to have a level playing field,” Grassley said.

Iowa’s other senator, Democrat Tom Harkin, released a statement on the the report:
“The conclusions of this National Climate Assessment are not a surprise.  In fact, they are a sobering affirmation of the fact that we are already experiencing the effects of climate change.  This report connects the increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events to our changing climate.  For areas like Iowa and the Midwest, our changing climate has meant higher temperatures, heavier rainfall events, and more severe flooding.  The reality is that we are likely experiencing just the start of these challenging effects.  It has never been more apparent that we need to slow climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to develop and apply adaptation measures to cope with its effects.”