Archive for October 16, 2010
Iowa Congressional Races and Climate Change
by Paul Deaton
is no controversy about planetary warming. World leaders must do
something about it if we expect to survive as a species. In the United
States, the Democratic party has been working to do something and each
of Iowa's five Republican candidates for the US House of Representatives
opposes the Democratic effort. Republicans have no plan to deal with
the problem and deny it exists.“
Dr. Mariannette Miller Meeks, a Republican candidate for Congress in Iowa's Second District, is a skeptic about the science of climate change. She said so at the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council (see video clip here). When asked “Do you believe in Global Warming?” during the debate between Miller Meeks and incumbent Dave Loebsack (D-IA), she dodged the question (see video clip here). Miller Meeks' skepticism about the science of climate change is a talking point from the Iowa Farm Bureau and runs against the growing consensus in the scientific community that the planet is warming and it is changing the climate. Her position is out of touch with reality.
The science of climate change is easy to understand. Human civilization developed based on adaptation to climatic conditions that for thousands of years were relatively constant. For all of human history, our atmosphere has contained carbon dioxide. This carbon dioxide along with other greenhouse gases served the useful purpose of helping regulate the temperature of the planet, creating those conditions upon which agriculture, oceanic life and other biological life developed and exist.
Since 1900, the average temperature of the planet increased by roughly one degree Celsius. While it does not seem like much, this warming has served to begin to melt the polar ice caps and the frozen tundra. Warmer atmosphere contains more moisture, which comes from both the ocean and land masses, causing droughts around the world. The drought in Russia this year was so severe, that the country curtailed wheat exports to feed its people. Increased atmospheric moisture created more rain and snow in certain regions. For example, in Iowa excess precipitation produced record flooding in 1993 and 2008. The warmer temperature has changed how water moves on our water planet.
What caused the temperature increase? A few activities played an important role. The forests have been cleared from most of the United States to harvest timber and to make way for agriculture and dwellings. Developers are clearing the equatorial rain forests for the same reasons. This activity released greenhouse gases that have been stored in these forests for millennia. Secondly, the industrial revolution that began in the 19th Century used hydrocarbon fuels to provide energy. Using hydrocarbon fuels emitted carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and this caused the earth to retain more of the sun's heat. Finally, the combination of these factors has had a magnifying effect. For example, the polar ice caps serve to reflect the sun's heat back into space. With smaller polar ice caps, more heat is absorbed by the ocean instead of being reflected. It is incontrovertible that planet warming is caused by human activity's release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
There is no controversy about planetary warming. World leaders must do something about it if we expect to survive as a species. In the United States, the Democratic party has been working to do something and each of Iowa's five Republican candidates for the US House of Representatives opposes the Democratic effort. Republicans have no plan to deal with the problem and deny it exists. If we care about our planet and our continued existence, in the 2010 midterms, Iowans should elect Democrats to the 112th Congress.
Deaton is a native Iowan living in rural Johnson County and weekend
editor of Blog for Iowa. E-mail Paul
through Election Day – Early Voting across Iowa**