Let's talk about the weather

State Senator Joe Bolkcom represents Iowa City and is outreach and community education director for the University of Iowa's Center for Global & Regional Environmental Research.

We Iowans love to talk about the weather. But not Governor Kim Reynolds. She didn’t mention the recent off the charts weather disaster in her rosy Condition of the State address earlier this month.

On December 15, Iowans once again experienced a set of events that no one alive has witnessed. A record high temperature of 74 degrees preceded the first December derecho recorded in U.S. history.

We all remember the August 10, 2020, Iowa derecho: 140 MPH winds, 7 million trees down, and 554,000 Iowans left without power. The December 15, 2021 derecho spawned 61 Iowa tornadoes, a single day all-time record. In addition, 22 of those tornadoes were EF-2 rated with 111-135 mph winds. It was one of the worst Iowa thunderstorms in any season. Fifty rural counties were declared disasters. 

Governor Reynolds has become a wiz at pumping out extreme weather disaster proclamations. She does it all the time. Republican leaders want you to disbelieve what you keep seeing with your very own eyes. That’s because they don’t acknowledge climate change is producing more extreme weather disasters. Their policy priorities will guarantee stronger, more damaging, costly storms and more rural disaster proclamations.

In 2018, Reynolds and Republican lawmakers gutted Iowa’s 30-year-old energy saving programs, which reduced carbon pollution and lessened the conditions that spawn extreme weather events. Those popular energy efficiency programs have helped businesses, homeowners, and farmers save energy and millions on our collective energy bills. Rural communities benefited with jobs and lower utility bills.

A 2020 study by Clean Jobs Midwest found that Iowa lost 3,100 energy efficiency jobs, mostly as a result of the 2018 legislation.

Last year, Republicans blocked the extension of the highly successful, carbon reducing, Iowa Solar Tax Credit incentive that over the past 10 years has resulted in the creation of more than 1,000 permanent jobs and 7,224 installed solar projects on homes, businesses, and farms in every Iowa county. The failure to extend this credit for residential projects is bad news for the 100 Iowa small businesses in the solar energy supply chain. It also broke a promise to 1,409 homeowners who installed solar systems, thinking they would get the tax credit that Republicans have now denied. 

Over the past five years, Reynolds or her predecessor, Governor Terry Branstad, also ended funding to three state university research centers: Iowa State University's Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, ISU's Iowa Energy Center, and the University of Iowa's Center for Global & Regional Environmental Research, which were all working to make Iowa more sustainable.

Iowa farmers and agriculture are in the bullseye of these strengthening weather disasters. Our ability to feed ourselves in the next few decades is threatened.

There is nothing fiscally responsible or conservative about destroying our ability to safely live here.

Top photo of split tree in Cedar Rapids on August 15, 2020, taken by Lyle Muller and first published at Iowa Watch along with Andy Kopsa's article, "Derecho-devastated Iowans wonder when more help will come: ‘This is beyond us’."

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