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Students and community take on climate change

News Writer

Published: Monday, February 4, 2013

Updated: Monday, February 4, 2013 15:02



Frank Darrah, Cedar Falls Councilmember and associate professor Gowri Gulwadi lecture on climate change at the University Book and Supply.

Members of the Cedar Valley community and University of Northern Iowa students gathered Feb. 2 at University Book and Supply for a discussion of the impacts of cities on climate change.  The event was part of an American Democracy Project series called “News Talk.”
Gowri Betrabet Gulwadi,  associate professor of applied human sciences, presented on the efforts of global cities to tackle the problems presented by a changing climate.

“Cities can be very vibrant centers and they have a lot they can offer in terms of being the epitome of human success and achievement,”Gulwadi said. “They can also be heavy consumers of resources and heavy sources of pollutants.”

Gowri presented a list of climate change indicators, including rising levels of greenhouse gases, declining populations of penguins and other arctic animals and warmer ocean temperatures.          Gowri also discussed the specific problems urban areas will have to combat, mentioning the urban heat island phenomenon as one that could exacerbate problems.

“(Climate change) can increase the demand for energy for cooling, because you’re having this heat differential, and it also increases air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions because of the increase in energy demand,” Gowri said.

Gowri continued, saying that increasing heat has led to increased rainfall. With the increase in rainfall, cities may have to deal with worse water runoff problems.

Additionally, Gowri discussed the affect on human health, including worsening heat illness and respiratory and allergic reactions brought about by a warmer planet.

Gowri finished her discussion with the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group.  The climate initiative, which began with 40 international cities, has expanded to 58 participants.  The cities work collaboratively to reduce their impact on the environment and have collectively taken 4,734 actions to reduce their environmental impact.  Actions taken by cities include the construction of green roofs, buildings with gardens planted atop the structure and installation of permeable concretes that soak up water and reflect heat instead of absorbing it.

Frank Darrah, Cedar Falls Ward 5 Councilmember,, also spoke about the local action against climate change.  
Darrah centered his presentation on the reconstruction of University Avenue.  The road, which is owned and maintained by the Iowa Department of Transportation and not the city, will be rebuilt in the coming years as a four-lane road, reduced from its current six lanes.  Roundabouts will be installed at select intersections to reduce traffic congestion at stoplights.  
Darrah also hopes to increase awareness of electronic waste recycling and subsidies for wind energy provided by the city, and hw acknowledged that the “city is not there yet” on targeting climate change.

Heather Walk, a UNI senior criminology major, attended the discussion as part of a class assignment.  
“It was really interesting from a college student’s perspective,” Walk said. “I didn’t know what the community was doing about (climate change.)”  
While Walk was not moved to take action the presentation did affect her view of those who are involved.

“It helps me be more supportive,” she said of the discussion.

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