Climate change is real

EDITORIALS

BY ART CULLEN

For those skeptical of climate change, we offer last year and this year as evidence that there is something strange going on. Sheets of rain followed by deep spates of heat and drought are the characteristics going back actually far more than two years — in fact, at least to the early 1980s. We are having 100-year floods in Des Moines every five years, and 500-year floods every decade. The century references become almost meaningless.

Flooding swept away the voice of the Drake Bulldogs, Larry Cotlar, as he stepped out of his van last weekend. This after rains of one to two inches in the northern reaches of the Des Moines Lobe, but rains that just keep on coming and are whisked through evermore efficient drainage systems that dump into the Raccoon and the Des Moines and turn them turbulent.

Where an inch of rain fell on Buena Vista County, about two-tenths of a ton of soil per acre was washed into the Raccoon. That from just one rain. Near Denison the loss from a two-inch rain was 6.5 tons per acre, flowing to the Missouri on its way to St. Louis and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico. To every soil particle phosphorous attaches that overloads the reservoirs and allows toxic algae to bloom. Consider the cumulative effects from that one-inch rain recurring through the season: two-tenths of a ton lost at a time. Just three such rains can displace more soil than can be regenerated in a year. Ten one-inch rains mean we have lost two tons of soil per year, when the soil can only regenerate at half a ton a year. Our wealth and our children’s wealth is eroding with that soil loss. It is affecting crop quality already, and will cause yields to decline over time even with great advances in crop science. That, in turn, will affect livestock production and the cost of food.

Climate change in Iowa is destroying property, polluting our water and even causing loss of life. This is the reality of climate change in Iowa. It is in the here and now. The longer we ignore it, the more dearly we pay.

About that wall, and NAFTA

President Trump pledged that he would fix immigration. He only made it worse. He created a crisis at the border to instill fear, and told Congress to fix it with an immigration bill. Of course, Congress can do nothing but cut taxes. After two failures in the House, Trump punted it to after the midterm elections. He can use it as a campaign wedge issue.

Likewise trade. He threw some tariffs at China, Canada and Mexico — by far Iowa’s most important export markets — ostensibly to save the US aluminum and steel industries, where Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has lots of friends. The result was retaliation against soy, pork and Harley Davidson motorcycles made in Wisconsin. Trump called the president of Canada, our strongest ally in the world, dishonest. He threatened to blow up NAFTA, build a wall spanning the southern border and force Mexico to pay for it, and as an aside offended every leader in Europe with threats to pull out of NATO (the greatest force for peace since World War II).

What about the wall? Nothing. What about blowing up NAFTA? He said that can wait until after the midterm elections, too. Meantime, a leftist populist just was elected president of Mexico largely by campaigning against corruption and Trump, which are synonymous.

What has Trump, or by extension Steve King and Chuck Grassley, done for Iowa? Soybean prices have tanked. Most farmers who rent land will lose money. A lot of young farmers will go under this year. They can’t afford a trade war involving soy and pork with China, which already ordered its farmers to plant at least a million more acres to soybeans. People who make John Deere tractors at Waterloo can’t afford tariffs on steel and lost markets in Europe. The only sign more ubiquitous than the Pioneer logo in small-town Mexico is that of Corona beer. Pioneer cannot afford to lose that seed trade. It will ripple back to Johnston.

Trump has not fixed immigration. He has not renegotiated NAFTA — he has made negotiations almost impossible by insulting our neighbors at every turn. His moves are driving young farmers broke. White men in Rust Belt towns are losing their jobs because Harleys aren’t rolling off the line like they used to — Trump now is talking down the very brand Sen. Joni Ernst extols on her roast and ride. Iowans who grow beans, feed hogs and work with steel have gotten a fat lip, not a fat wallet, from this bad deal maker.