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GUEST COLUMN

By Staff | Mar 18, 2016

By DON HOFSTRAND

Agricultural economist

The lead story in the Feb. 12 issue of Farm News titled “A Sensible Environmentalist” was a report on a speech given at the Iowa Pork Congress by Patrick Moore, a Canadian ecologist.

While I agree with some of his conclusions (e.g. GMOs), I find his statements on global warming of concern. He states that there is no scientific consensus that human activity is causing global warming and the resulting climate change.

He backs-up his assertion with a petition of 31,000 scientists, called the Global Warming Petition Project, stating that “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the earth’s climate.”

While the large number of responses to the petition seems rather convincing, let’s look a little deeper at the GWPP. It began collecting signatures about 40 years ago. Petition respondents were asked to provide their names and academic degrees. A wide range of academic degrees were reported including medicine, computers, engineering, physics and general science.

Only 39 of the respondents listed climatology. Even when respondents listing atmospheric science are added, the total still represents only one-half of 1 percent of the respondents.

So the great majority of the respondents, although holding a degree in science, probably don’t know any more about global warming than the average person.

The GWPP is a petition, not a survey, it only asks for responses from individuals denying the linkage between human activity and global warming. We don’t know how many of the individuals contacted, but not signing would have responded that they believe there is a link between human activity and global warming.

There have been over 10 million science degrees awarded since 1970. The petition represents only about three-tenths of 1 percent of this total.

There are scientific indicators of the link between human activity and global warming. A survey in 2009 asked 3,146 earth scientists “Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?”

More than 82 percent of the respondents answered “yes.” More specifically, 77 percent of the scientists who were non-climatologists and didn’t publish research answered yes, while 97.5 percent of climatologists, who actively publish research on climate change, responded “yes.”

This result is confirmed by an independent study in 2010 that surveyed all climate scientists who have publicly signed declarations supporting, or rejecting, the consensus of a link between human activity and global warming.

Survey findings show that between 97 and 98 percent of climate experts support the premise that human activity is causing global warming.

Let’s move from scientists to the actual scientific research. A survey of all peer-reviewed research on global warming published between 1993 and 2003 (928 studies) shows that 75 percent of the studies agreed that human activity causes global warming.

The remaining 25 percent made no comment either way as they focused on other issues (assessing research methods or paleoclimate analysis). No studies were found that human activity is not causing global warming.

More recently, another survey of all peer-reviewed research published between 1991 and 2011 (more than 12,000 studies) found that, when looking just at the studies taking a position on the topic, over 97 percent agreed that human activity is causing global warming.

Next let’s move to the position of scientific organizations. These are organizations like the National Academy of Sciences and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Well over 100 scientific organizations around the world have position statements endorsing the position that most global warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activity. While some organizations hold a non-committal position, no national scientific organization position statements were found stating that global warming is not happening or that human activity has no role in global warming.

A little closer to home for us in agriculture is the position statement collaboratively prepared by the American Society of Agronomy, the Crop Science Society of America and the Soil Science Society of America.

This position statement also supports the position that human activity is causing global warming. The position statement provides some interesting information.

I encourage you to read it at www.soils.org/files/science-policy/asa-cssa-sssa-climate-change-policy-statement.pdf.

This information, when considered collectively, leads one to conclude that there is a scientific consensus that human activity is causing the warming of our planet.

Don Hofstrand is an ag economist and a former farm and ag business management specialist with Iowa State University.

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GUEST COLUMN

By Staff | Mar 18, 2016

By DON KASS,

Plymouth County supervisor

In light of Des Moines Water Works yet again changing its story about infrastructure improvements at the utility, it is clear that Bill Stowe lacks a solid strategy, and will instead blindly continue with this divisive and costly lawsuit.

Meanwhile, farmers and other concerned stakeholders across the state are taking action to improve conservation efforts and identify lasting funding sources.

After filing this lawsuit, DMWW has flip-flopped several times on the simple question of why? It has attributed the litigation to a simple business decision, a crusade to protect water quality and the environment, and a shield for Des Moines taxpayers against cost increases, among others.

Although this lawsuit was born under the guise of protecting Iowa’s waterways, it has become clear that it is about securing additional funding for overdue infrastructure projects that may or may not be related to nitrate removal.

DMWW’s claims about infrastructure needs and costs have been anything but consistent. When the lawsuit was announced, DMWW claimed that it might cost up to $180 million just to replace the nitrate removal facility.

In a Black & Veatch engineering study housed on DMWW’s own website, the estimated cost of replacement for the Fleur Nitrate facility is just under $10 million.

Even more puzzling, in DMWW’s recently announced five-year, $240-plus million infrastructure plan, $70 million is attributed to nitrate removal.

These enormous disparities cannot be overlooked and should be questioned carefully.

DMWW has already introduced a 10 percent rate hike in order to pay for general maintenance work and to cover a budget shortfall caused by decreasing consumption (by its own admission), which will take effect only a few weeks from now.

It is clear that the utility considers the lawsuit to be one way to cover economic shortfalls and overdue maintenance, passing costs to drainage districts in northwest Iowa, even though Iowa law clearly states that drainage districts cannot be subject to monetary judgment.

After all, drainage districts don’t have any funding mechanism in place – as a county supervisor, I am familiar with this structure.

As DMWW reports falling revenue, and hikes rates for its customers, it has also decided that Stowe deserves more money.

As has been widely reported, the DMWW board has agreed to pay Stowe $500,000 upon his departure, as long as he stays at the utility through 2020. The size of this bonus is shocking in light of Stowe’s role as a public employee, and given the utility’s current revenue shortages requiring rate increases across the board.

Rate payers had no say in the lawsuit, rate hikes or his troubling bonus. Rather than providing Stowe with a golden parachute and rural Iowans with a subpoena, DMWW officials should support rural initiatives that curb nutrient loss – such as Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy – and explore urban solutions – such as a modernized, regional water facility.

Water quality improvement is a statewide goal. Let’s drop the litigation and find some common ground so we can make real progress.

Don Kass is a member of the Plymouth County Board of Supervisors and lives in Remsen.

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