Guest op-ed from Megan Gustafson, a student at Iowa’s Wartburg Seminary, who participated in an event for the Evangelical Environmental Network’s Pro-Life Clean Energy Campaign in Waterloo this past week.
The effects of climate change are here and the impacts for Iowans are undeniable.
Just ask the homeowners of Fremont County, who are still gutting their homes from the damage left by the swollen Missouri River in April, or the residents of Davenport still reeling from historic flooding from the Mississippi earlier this summer.
Just ask farmers across the state racing to decode the mysteries of rapidly changing weather patterns, increased flooding, and longer shoulder seasons that make it harder every year to get into the fields to plant.
For some time, the conventional political wisdom has been that Sen. Joni Ernst is taking the personally and politically prudent course of action: stay noncommittal on the science, demur when asked to take a firm stand, and keep policy prescriptions as vague as possible. This strategy worked because there wasn’t, to this point, a political penalty for ignoring bold climate action in Iowa, and GOP orthodoxy had most in the party believing it’s important only to radical environmentalists and coastal partisans.
It’s safe to say that the conventional wisdom is changing—fast.
According to the 2019 Yale Climate Opinion Map, a full 61% of Iowans accept the science telling us our world is warming. 57% of them want Congress to do more to address it, including by offering tax rebates for electric vehicles and solar panel purchases (82% support), funding research into renewable energy sources (84% support) and regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant (70% support).
These are not mere pluralities of support; it’s as close to a mandate as you get.
This support for climate policies is reflected across the political spectrum. Over 15,000 pro-life evangelical Iowans recently called on their elected officials, including Sen. Ernst, to transition Iowa to 100% clean energy by 2030. The support gets even stronger among younger conservative voters, a majority of whom support clean energy investment and curbing the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure.
For conservative lawmakers like Sen. Ernst, between evangelicals and the majority of other Iowans supportive of climate action, this should be all the cover needed to do the right thing. She and other Iowa lawmakers should have no qualms about getting serious about climate change.
If she does support policies to address climate change, she will have evangelicals and more than a few other natural allies among her constituents supporting climate action.
Farmers are especially attuned to the impacts and economic challenges of the climate crisis. They scrambled last spring to plant their crops during the small window between the end of winter and spring’s torrential rains and flooding. Devastating flooding in the region has caused an estimated $2 billion in damages. That doesn’t include the bill taxpayers may be footing when they have to pay out crop insurance payments for agricultural losses after a bad harvest.
These farmers spend countless hours training and learning how to adapt to a changing environment so they can survive. It’s time Sen. Ernst did her part.
Unfortunately, both Sens. Ernst and Grassley squandered their most recent opportunity to stand up to big polluters and put Iowans first by voting to support the Trump administration’s so-called “Affordable Clean Energy” (ACE) rule. This rule is a toothless standard on power plant pollution and could more aptly be named the “Dirty Power Scam” since it will do nothing to address the climate crisis or accelerate the transition to clean energy.
It will put no meaningful limits on carbon pollution and, by the administration’s own admission, will lead to more pollution in many parts of the country. Sens. Ernst and Grassley had the chance to hold polluters accountable, create clean energy jobs, and protect the health of Iowans. Instead, they voted for business as usual.
For Iowans sake, let’s hope they choose differently next time.
by Megan Gustafson