Nordic nations demand Trump’s acknowledgement of climate change in Arctic circle

An arctic beach off of the Norwegian sea. (Tony Armstrong/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | May 11, 2017

Representatives from eight Arctic nations will gather in Fairbanks, Alaska today for the 10th Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting.

At the meeting, the end of the United States two-year chairmanship of the council will be marked with a final statement summarizing U.S. accomplishments as chair. Officials from Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia and Sweden have not yet signed off on the statement because they say that the Trump administration deemphasizes climate change and the Paris climate accord in the document. The language of the document must be approved by all parties prior to its presentation for signing.

The other member countries say that President Trump has reversed the commitment that President Obama made to climate issues when the U.S. became chair in 2015. Along with Russia, the current administration has suggested opening up the Arctic to more drilling. The White House is also considering pulling out of the Paris climate pact, which was signed by over 200 nations in 2015.

Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden recently made a joint statement pledging to take the lead on climate change and energy policy and firmly backing the Paris accord. At the ministerial meeting’s end, Finland will become head of council.

Although the current administration has taken decisive steps to dismantle climate change policy, David Balton, the State Department’s assistant secretary for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs, said, “The U.S. will remain engaged in the work the Arctic Council does on climate change throughout. I am very confident there will be no change in that regard.”

Attorneys general, large businesses urge Trump administration to remain in Paris Climate Agreement

The Eiffel Tower was illuminated in green during the Conference of the Parties 21 in an effort to raise money for reforestation efforts. (Yann Caradec/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | April 27, 2017

Fourteen attorneys general sent a letter to President Trump on Tuesday urging him not to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement.

The United States agreed to the Paris accord along with 200 other nations during the Conference of the Parties 21 (COP21) in 2015. Each country that signed on agreed to take some action to improve environmental conditions, mostly by reducing fossil fuel emissions that cause climate change. For its part, the U.S. pledged to bring its emission levels 26 percent and 28 percent below 2005 levels before 2050.

Tuesday’s letter was signed by top ranking prosecutors in Iowa, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, the District of Columbia and American Samoa. It read, “The Paris Agreement, by securing commitments from countries the world over, reflects this collective interdependency and constitutes an unprecedented global effort to address a problem threatening the well-being of everyone on Earth.”

The White House also received a letter from several major businesses in support of staying in the Paris agreement. On Wednesday, Apple, DuPont, General Mills, Google Intel, Shell and Walmart, among others, wrote to the President,

“Climate change presents U.S. companies with both business risks and business opportunities. U.S. business interests are best served by a stable and practical framework facilitating an effective and balanced global response. We believe the Paris Agreement provides such a framework.”

Trump Administration officials will meet today to discuss whether the U.S. should leave the Paris Agreement or stay the course. President Trump pledged to “cancel” the agreement during his campaign, but some of his top officials like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are in support of the accord.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in a press conference that a decision will be made by “late May-ish, if not sooner.”


China responds to Trump’s climate policy rollback

China is among the world’s lead producers of both renewable energy and greenhouse gas emissions. (Jonathan Kos-Read/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | March 31, 2017

China has responded to Trump’s rollback of Obama-era climate change policy via state-run media publications.

A recent state-run tabloid read, “Western opinion should continue to pressure the Trump administration on climate change. Washington’s political selfishness must be discouraged.” It continued, “China will remain the world’s biggest developing country for a long time. How can it be expected to sacrifice its own development space for those developed western powerhouses?”

China consumes more energy from coal than the rest of the world’s nations combined and is also the global leader in greenhouse gas emissions; the U.S. is in second place. China’s population measures 3.4 billion people while the U.S. population is roughly 3.3 million. China also leads the world in the exportation of renewable energy.

The Trump administration discussed the possibility of withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement after the President referred to it as a “bad deal” for the U.S. Projections from the International Energy Agency reveal that if the U.S. backed out of the Paris Climate Agreement and all other countries stuck to emission reduction goals, 10 percent of emission decrease expected from the agreement would be lost.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said, “All signatories should stick to it instead of walking away from it, as this is a responsibility we must assume for future generations.”

Exxon Mobil, the largest oil company in the U.S., echoes Xi’s sentiment. “We welcomed the Paris Agreement when it was announced in December 2015, and again when it came into force in November 2016. We have reiterated our support on several occasions,” said Peter Trelenberg, the company’s environmental policy and planning manager, in a letter to the White House.

According to a report from the United Nations, Earth is expected to warm by about 3 degrees Celsius by the end of this century – even if all nations keep their end of the Paris Agreements.

Scientists construct massive fake sun to develop new renewable energy source

“Synlight,” the world’s largest artificial sun, was created by scientists to develop new ways to create hydrogen fuel. (Bruno Amaru/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | March 24, 2017

Scientists in Germany have constructed the world’s largest artificial sun in order research how to produce a developing renewable energy source.

Hydrogen is regarded as the renewable fuel of the future, mostly because it does not produce greenhouse gas emissions when burned. However, the gas isn’t found alone in the nature so scientists must split the molecules that make up water (H2O) in order to harness its power. Separating H20 molecules requires a great deal of energy; the German scientists hope to learn how to get that energy from sunlight.

The artificial sun, called “Synlight,” is comprised of 149 high-powered film projector spotlights and is able to generate 350 kilowatts. Bernard Hoffschmidt is research director at the German Aerospace Center, Synlight’s home. Hoffschmidt told the Guardian, “If you went in the room when it was switched on, you’d burn directly.”

The researchers will point all of the artificial sun’s energy at a single 8 by 8 inch spot where it will emit 10,000 times the amount of light that reaches Earth naturally from the sun. Using these strong rays, the scientists will be able to experiment with new ways of creating hydrogen fuel using energy from the sun.

In the short term, Synlight uses an incredible amount of energy: four hours of operation is equivalent to how much electricity a family of four would use in a year. Long term, the researchers anticipate it could help them learn how to use naturally occurring sunlight to produce hydrogen fuel without the use of any fossil fuels.

Hoffschmidt said, “We’d need billions of tons of hydrogen if we wanted to drive airplanes and cars on CO2-free fuel. Climate change is speeding up so we need to speed up innovation.”

On The Radio – CGRER honored by Iowa United Nations Association

CGRER Co-director Jerry Schnoor (left) and newly appointed Iowa United Nations Association President John Frazier during an award ceremony in Cedar Rapids on May 14, 2016. (Nick Fetty/CGRER)
CGRER Co-director Jerry Schnoor (left) and newly appointed Iowa United Nations Association President John Fraser during an award ceremony in Cedar Rapids on May 14, 2016. (Nick Fetty/CGRER)
Nick Fetty | May 23, 2016

This week’s On The Radio segment discusses a recent award CGRER received for its communication and outreach efforts on behalf of the scientific community. 

Transcript: CGRER honored by Iowa United Nations Association

The University of Iowa’s Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, or CGRER, was recognized by the Iowa United Nations Association for its communications and outreach efforts.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

CGRER director Jerry Schnoor accepted the Garst Media Award for the Iowa Environmental Focus, CGRER’s blog devoted to environmental news and research. Schnoor along with CGRER’s two journalism graduate students attended the COP21 climate conference in Paris last December and produced daily video recaps and other blog posts to connect Iowans to the international climate discussion. In addition to accepting the award, Schnoor presented on the climate conference and how to move forward.

Jim Olson, Executive Director of the Iowa United Nations Association, said he thinks journalists and other writers play an important role in sharing complicated scientific material with the general public.

Olson: “Journalists really have an important role in serving as a bridge between scientists and the general public. It’s a very important role because a lot of members of the general public are not particularly literate in scientific matters, and so when journalists can take scientific research and translate it into terms that the public can understand and absorb, that is really an important function.”

The award was presented during a ceremony earlier this month in Cedar Rapids.

For more information about this award and about CGRER’s efforts, visit

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.

CGRER members to present on COP21 experience

Paris Climate Change Talks FINAL

Brittany Simmons | March 9, 2016

Two University of Iowa graduate students will give a presentation on Thursday to discuss their experience at the COP21 (Conference of the Parties) climate conference in Paris last December and how both the United States and Iowa fit into the international climate discussion.

Speakers for the event include Nick Fetty and KC McGinnis, both of whom are master’s students in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Fetty and McGinnis represented the UI’s Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research (CGRER) by blogging and producing video reports of the events they covered while in Paris.

Kelsey Kramer McGinnis with the UI’s Center for Human Rights will also present. Kramer McGinnis attended COP21 and covered events from a human rights perspective.

During COP21 representatives from 196 parties came together to approve an accord that “limits average global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial temperatures and strives for a limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) if possible.” COP21 took place from November 3o through December 13.

Thursday’s event begins at 12:40 p.m. in room 225 of the Boyd Law Building. Sponsors include the International Law Society, International & Comparative Law Programming, the Office of Sustainability, and the UI Center for Human Rights.

Fetty along with Andrea Cohen – a PhD student in social studies education who also attended COP21 as a representative for CGRER – discussed their experiences and its relevance to Iowa during an event hosted by the Iowa United Nations Association in Cedar Falls last month.

Brittany Simmons is a student in the UI College of Law and the main organizer of Thursday’s event.

UI scholars present findings from COP21

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 4.16.28 PM
University of Iowa Social Studies Education Ph.D student Andrea Cohen presents her findings from COP21 at the University of Northern Iowa in February 2016.
KC McGinnis | February 25, 2016

University of Iowa graduate students Andrea Cohen and Nick Fetty discussed their trip to Paris for the COP21 climate conference last week during a presentation hosted at the University of Northern Iowa.

Cohen, who represented the Iowa United Nations Association at the conference, talked about the importance of carbon literacy in helping everyday Iowans address climate change. Cohen looked to a program in Manchester, United Kingdom: The Carbon Literacy Project, which she was introduced to during a presentation at COP21.

Fetty, a graduate student in the University of Iowa School of Journalism & Mass Communication, talked about his efforts to tell stories from COP21 through daily updates at the IowaEnvironmentalFocus blog. During COP21 Fetty interviewed UI researcher and CGRER co-founder Jerry Schnoor, Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie and Dubuque Mayor Roy Buol. You can see his interviews and more content from COP21 at the CGRER YouTube page.

You can watch Cohen and Fetty’s presentation at UNI below: