Guest Opinion: There’s still a need for climate striking in Iowa and worldwide

Iowa City climate-change activists write about how inaction on the issues is rapidly approaching the point of no return.


David Harmantas

Protesters take part in an 11-minutes sit-down protest during the Iowa City Climate Strike in downtown Iowa City on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019.

As global leaders meet at the United Nations climate summit in Madrid this week, we plan to continue our yearlong strike and walkouts in Iowa City at 3:30 p.m. Friday at the Old Brick. 

Since the Iowa City Community School District and Iowa City City Council have passed updated climate plans in line with the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and Swedish activist Greta Thunberg brought global attention to Iowa City, we’ve been asked why we continue.

Here’s why: We have no choice.

As U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres warned world leaders on Monday, “The point of no return is no longer over the horizon. It is in sight and hurtling toward us.”

And yet, as it burns coal for six more years in the middle of our town, the University of Iowa still refuses to even respond to or meet Iowa City climate advocates or join the Iowa City climate plan in a Town-Gown Climate Accord. In the process, UI plans to recklessly burn coal for six more years — the single biggest contributor of CO2 in Iowa City — and then rely on another fossil fuel, methane-emitting natural gas, for 60 percent of its Power Plant needs for the next half century.

If you believe in science and the reams of studies on climate chaos that have concluded “we might already have crossed the threshold for a cascade of inter-related tipping points,” such a reliance on fossil fuels at UI is almost delusional.

Here’s why: We have no choice.

We strike because the adults in the room still hide behind excuses for their silence and inaction and delays, when CO2 emissions have increased by 4 percent since the Paris Climate Summit in 2015, at a time when we need to drastically cut emissions in half over the next decade — just to stave off the worst disasters.

We strike because world-class universities such as the University of Illinois declared climate-emergency plans this week with 200 other American universities, joining 7,000 universities who committed to carbon neutral plans by 2030 earlier this summer — such as the University of California. We deserve a world-class university climate emergency plan in Iowa City.

In short: UI’s outdated fossil fuel-generated Power Plant plans and sustainability goals fall behind schools across the country, including Iowa State University, which The Princeton Review recently ranked 40th in the Top Green Colleges.

We strike because 11,000 scientists warned last month of “untold suffering” if we fail to act quickly on our climate crisis.  That means we must act now, not when it’s convenient.

We strike because our planet’s salvation requires courage, not fear.

We strike for climate refugees, including those displaced by flooding, drought, and fires in Iowa, across the U.S., and around the world. Every two seconds, according to a recent Oxfam study, someone in the world is turned into a refugee by climate chaos.

In six years of UI burning coal, that totals 94.6 million refugees from our climate crisis. Just do the math for 50 more years of fossil fuels such as natural gas to understand our own responsibility.

So, we will strike until adults in the room, including the UI administration, recognize we have reached a “point of no return” and urgently move forward with a Town-Gown Climate Accord in line with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change goals, declare a climate emergency like other world-class universities, and end toxic and CO2-spewing coal in the heart of our town.

We hope you join us Friday.

Massimo Paciotto-Biggers and Alex Howe, Iowa City climate strikers