The Iowa Climate Change Advisory Council met yesterday in Davenport and made recommendations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% in 2050. The council was created as part of a larger package on greenhouse gases (SF 485) during the last session. State Representative Donovan Olson of Boone led the bill through the House and also serves on the Advisory Council.

The scoop from today’s Des Moines Register:

Panel aims to cut Iowa’s emissions in half

Davenport, Ia. — A legislative panel on Monday agreed to lay out how Iowa could cut greenhouse gas emissions related to global warming either by 50 percent or by 90 percent by 2050.

The Iowa Climate Change Advisory Council plans to report in 2008 on specific ways to make those cuts from 2005 emissions levels and the costs involved. The council will report its ideas to the Legislature, which has the final say. The panel met at St. Ambrose University here Monday.

Many climate experts, including Iowa native James Hansen, NASA’s chief climate scientist, have said that people will have to cut greenhouse gas emissions sharply in the next decade or so for the world to avoid a climate “point of no return.” Otherwise, massive polar ice melting and other problems will lead to coastal flooding, more frequent severe storms, drought and changes in wildlife populations and migrations.

State Sen. Rob Hogg, a Cedar Rapids Democrat and a nonvoting member of the legislative panel, said Monday that it is important for Iowa to make emissions cuts in the next few years. The panel said the state needs to find a way soon to stop the growth in greenhouse gas emissions and to eventually cut emissions.

“We need to get a conversation among Iowans going on this, because quite frankly we’ve been slow on this,” Hogg said.

In testimony, Mark Kresowik of the Sierra Club pushed for quick action. “We can make significant strides in the next few years,” Kresowik said.

He added that capacity gained through energy-efficiency programs costs 25 percent as much as building new capacity at power plants.

Not everyone in the audience Monday accepted the argument for the emissions cuts, especially if it means reducing the use of coal, which utilities consider the cheapest, most reliable way to meet demand for electricity.

Joe Lucas, executive director of Americans for Balanced Energy Choices, which supports coal-fired plants, told the panel that the state should push energy-efficiency programs but leave greenhouse gas emissions standards to Congress. Dozens of current bills in Congress would set national standards for cuts in emissions.

Lew Olson of the state Republican caucus staff contended that the science on global warming is uncertain. He said that cuts of 25 percent to 35 percent in greenhouse gas emissions could be achieved with present technologies, but that cuts beyond that might require added power from nuclear plants.

Olson asked the panel to avoid unintended consequences such as tax increases to address a problem that might not be as bad as some think.

A couple of ministers presented data they said show that a move away from coal would cost Iowa jobs and income, hurting poor people more than anyone else.

The Rev. Cary Gordon of Sioux City said evangelicals want to guard against the needy being hurt by changes based on shaky science. “Evangelicals are hesitant to trust science, especially environmental science,” he said.

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which recently released what is considered the mainstream scientific agreement on climate change – reporting that man-made emissions are now controlling the phenomenon – is made up of hundreds of leading climate scientists worldwide.

The Rev. Bill Tweed, a minister from Oskaloosa, noted that the Cornwall Alliance, a group of theologians that says it is pushing a biblical view of stewardship, says cutting emissions by shifting from coal plants to alternative energy sources would cost Iowans jobs. The result would be a cost by 2015 of $363 to $793 per person in lost net income, Tweed said.

Iowa’s greenhouse gas emissions are expected to grow by 40 percent by 2050 if nothing is done, about 10 percentage points below the national average, the legislative panel said.

Reporter Perry Beeman can be reached at (515) 284-8538 or