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University researchers say climate change affecting state’s economy

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Researchers at Iowa State University have concluded that changes in Iowa’s climate are affecting the state’s economy.

In 2009, the Iowa Legislature approved the formation of the Iowa Climate Change Impacts Committee, which includes researchers from the University of Iowa, the University of Northern Iowa and Iowa State University, to conduct a study on climate change.

Gene Takle, a professor of geological and atmospheric sciences and agronomy at Iowa State, said Iowa is experiencing a long-term trend toward more precipitation, an increase in extreme summer rainfall, and warmer temperatures, especially during winter and at night.

“Some changes, such as the increased frequency of precipitation extremes that lead to flooding, have seriously affected the state in a negative way,” Takle wrote. “Others, such as more favorable summer growing conditions, have benefited the state’s economy.”

And though a longer growing season and reduced drought have helped to increase corn and soybean yields, which could result in lower or more stable food and feed costs, more precipitation may also lead to more crop pests and speed soil erosion in farm fields.

By midcentury, warmer and drier conditions are expected to decrease crop yields and livestock health, wrote Dave Swenson, an Iowa State associate scientist in economics.

To address those issues, the committee recommended seven policy initiatives, including recommendations to ask the Iowa Department of Transportation to explore interim construction designs that account for trends in Iowa’s climate and to advocate for federal highway construction standards that consider the effects.

To read the full report, including contributions from University of Iowa and University of Northern Iowa researchers, go to http://tinyurl.com/23dp9hq. It was sent to Gov. Chet Culver and the Iowa General Assembly on Jan. 3.

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