Iowa, known for its sprawling plains and cornfields, is home to 3 million people and an even higher population of hogs. With nearly 56 thousand square miles, Iowa ranks 42nd in population density of the United States. Like many other states, the name Iowa is derived from the language of the native people who first inhabited the land, in this case the Dakota Sioux.
Iowa is already seeing significant effects from climate change which are expected to worsen in the coming years. In particular, hotter, warmer weather leaves Iowa vulnerable to destructive flooding as the state is bordered by the Missouri river to the west and the Mississippi river to the east. The Iowa Policy Project found that precipitation in the state has been increasing steadily since the 1970s at a rate of about 1.25 inches per decade, which is the largest increase across the US. The resulting flooding is dangerous for residents and damaging to Iowa’s economy. Damage to the transportation infrastructure and water management systems alone could exceed $480 million per year (according to 2015 dollar values) by the end of this century.
Iowa’s farmers are also on the front lives of the climate battle. As drought and flooding threaten their crops and extreme heat threatens their health, Iowa farmers across the political spectrum have begun to demand climate solutions. In fact, many have begun developing solutions themselves. A movement is growing among farmers to transition from traditional farming, which strips soil of carbon, to regenerative farming, which focuses on sequestering carbon within soil. The benefits from these practices are multi-faceted, as they reduce net emissions and build resiliency in the agricultural sector amidst threats to the food supply from climate change.
Iowa is making strides in its renewable resource development. The state generated 42% of its energy from wind turbines, the largest share of any state in the country. However, even as Iowa is not generating a significant share of its energy from coal or natural gas, these fossil fuels do represent a significant share of Iowa’s energy consumption. Iowa ranked 5th in 2018 for the most coal use for electricity generation. Natural gas accounts for almost one-fifth of the energy consumed in the state.
While Iowa state lacks a comprehensive climate action plan, in August 2021, the Iowa Environmental Council, announced its vision for Iowa to reach 100% clean power generation by 2035. In the meantime, Iowa City has developed goals to include the reduction of emissions to 80% of 2005 levels by 2050 and Des Moines has ambitions to go carbon-free by 2035.
CREDIT: IOWA PBS