The looming impacts of climate change on the State of Iowa was the subject of a meeting in Des Moines today. The World Food Prize is hosting the event with about 100 “stakeholders” discussing preparation for disasters, infrastructure, public health, natural resources, and agriculture.
Doctor Yogesh Shah, with Des Moines University, discussed how increasing temperatures will likely fuel a boom in mosquito populations. That in turn, he says, will lead to an increase in mosquito-borne diseases, like West Nile, Dengue Fever, and Malaria. “Our southern borders — Florida, Texas — will have malaria by 2050 if things don’t change,” Shah said.
As temperatures increase, the amount of parasites that can grow inside mosquitoes also increases, according to Shah. “The mosquito becomes infectious in shorter period of time,” Shah said. Shah added that climate change is a public health concern in several ways: hotter days are difficult for those with cardiovascular conditions and increased air pollutants put people at risk of respiratory diseases.
Jill Euken, director of the Bioeconomy Institute at Iowa State University, discussed the development of biochar [bio-charr] at the campus in Ames. Biochar, she explained, is a soil additive made from biomass like corn stover and switchgrass. “If you picture a pile of leaves burning in your backyard, and if you think about that smoke coming off, what we do is condense smoke into bio oil. The residual is what we call biochar,” Euken said.
Scientists say they expect to see more frequent swings between severe rains and drought as climate change continues. Euken said biochar can address that because it holds moisture and provides habitat for microorganisms when it’s added to cropland. Biochar has other applications; including as an asphalt binder for bike paths and being combined with limestone into a type of bio-cement.
Tomorrow, Des Moines will host a national Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience at the World Food Prize Building.