Matt Russell is a fifth-generation farmer living in Lacona, Iowa, and he has watched one record-breaking flood after another hit the state. One cluster of storms alone caused more than $1 billion in damages across the region in April. But flooding isn’t the only challenge; Iowa has been hammered by intense drought in recent years. And the swings in weather can require expensive machines to handle rain-soaked fields or a shift in crops and planting patterns.
“Scientists have been telling us what climate change looks like,” Russell said. “As farmers, we’re living it.”
Yet Republican candidates vying to win the Iowa caucus on Monday have failed to offer a single solution for the climate challenge. They’ve spent plenty of time in the state lately but have ignored this threat to Iowa’s top industry and its communities.
Donald Trump calls climate change “a big scam.” Senator Ted Cruz said people who recognize climate change are “the equivalent of the flat-Earthers.”
And earlier this week in Iowa, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) told a crowd at a town hall meeting, “There’s never been a time when the climate has not been changing,” and said he opposes policies to address sea-level rise and other impacts. The next day, Rubio appeared on stage with Iowa’s Sen. Joni Ernst, a Tea Party favorite who claims that changes in the climate are “natural” and attributes her initial political success to fossil-fuel idealogues Charles and David Koch.
Belittling climate change may please deep-pocketed polluters, but it doesn’t help Iowans facing climate impacts today or in the future:
- More than 185 scientists from over 39 Iowa universities and colleges say the state is already experiencing excessively wet springs and an increase in the number of intensely wet days, “causing substantial damages to our cities and our farmland.”
- Over 150,000 of Iowans live in flood-prone areas and thousands more will suffer hotter temperatures: heat waves are expected to increase from more than 10 days per year now to more than 60 by 2050, according to scientists at Climate Central.
- The Risky Business Project–led by former U.S. Treasurer Henry Paulson, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer–found that climate change will cause Iowa’s economy to suffer most among Midwestern states due to lower crop yields. By century’s end, the report found, the state’s corn crop could decline by up to 77 percent, “a huge hit for a corn industry worth nearly $10 billion.”
Like most Americans, the vast majority of Iowans want leaders to tackle this threat. When Pope Francis released his encyclical in July calling for climate action, for instance, 65 percent of Iowa voters said they support the Pope’s call, according to a Quinnipiac poll.
And more residents of the Hawkeye State are seeing the benefits of climate solutions firsthand. Iowa gets 27 percent of its electricity from wind power–more than any other state in the nation–and wind power and manufacturing has attracted $10 billion in investments to the state. Solar power is also growing, and the Farmers Electric Cooperative recently built Iowa’s first major solar plant. And Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie went to the Paris climate talks to discuss how his city is becoming more resilient in the face of flooding and other climate impacts.
All the Democratic presidential candidates support this kind of climate action. Republicans have vowed to dismantle it. Iowans deserve leaders who will help them tackle climate change, create economic growth and strengthen rural and urban communities.