Making the Caucuses about Climate: An Interview with Senator Rob Hogg

Posted: October 18, 2019 | By: Samantha Bayne Tagged: Blog

DES MOINES, Iowa — On the day before the “Extreme Weather in Iowa” symposium hosted by The University of Iowa Public Policy Center, it rained over 3.5 inches in Des Moines. Shattering the October 1 record by over 2 inches, this extreme weather event exemplified the climate we are now facing in Iowa: variant temperatures, high precipitation, and massive flooding across the state.

“We have got to get public policy right to deal with climate change,” said Senator Rob Hogg at the symposium.

Rob Hogg is an Iowa State Senator representing District 33, which includes large portions of Cedar Rapids. Without media sponsors or fanfare, he has hosted climate conversations around the Cedar Rapids area with fifteen 2020 presidential candidates, most recently Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Cory Booker. These conversations first began in May, with a climate-centered event co-hosted by Washington Governor Jay Inslee.

“At the time, I didn’t think that climate change was going to get enough attention in the debates,” said Senator Hogg. He continued those conversations, hosting candidate after candidate, with high attendance from across the region. These forums gave Iowans the chance to speak directly to presidential candidates about their experiences with extreme weather events and climate change.

Iowa is uniquely positioned to make climate change a central focus of the campaigns, with its ability to be a leader in solar power, wind power, and sustainable farming practices. Iowa legislators, including Senator Hogg, have worked on related issues like a solar power tax credit, but there is much more to be done to counter the long-lasting impacts of climate change. 

“This is a great economic opportunity for Iowa: renewable energy, carbon sequestration, better water management,” said Senator Hogg. “This isn’t about jobs in Des Moines, this is about jobs in Denison.”

Senator Hogg has made it his mission to make sure that Iowa’s voice is heard. From the 2008 flood in Cedar Rapids to the more recent floods in Davenport and southwestern Iowa in 2019, Iowans have had firsthand experience managing high precipitation. 

“This is something that Iowans get to do that people in other states can’t do,” said Senator Hogg about sharing a personal experience with presidential candidates. These stories can make a real difference in future policymaking.

Climate change has become center-stage as the caucus season heats up. CNN hosted a “Climate Crisis Town Hall” in New York City, and MSNBC hosted the “Climate Forum 2020” in Washington, D.C. Although discussions around climate are happening in other early states, Iowa has truly taken advantage of its first-in-the-nation status. Fifteen candidates have had to talk directly to Iowans about their plans for addressing global warming. Unlike any previous presidential race, the candidates who are hearing these stories are moved towards direct climate action. They now understand, as Senator Hogg words it, that climate change is “not an abstract, partisan, political, philosophical issue. This is a reality for people.” And it’s not going away – climate issues are only going to get worse unless we take significant action. We need a president who deeply understands what obstacles we face and who commits to change.

“The most important thing is getting involved as a citizen,” Senator Hogg said. Organizations around Iowa are focusing on raising awareness about global warming, including the Citizens’ Climate Lobby and the Sunrise Movement. Climate change is finally getting the attention it deserves, but until action is taken, Senator Hogg is going to continue hosting climate conversations with presidential candidates. “We cannot solve this problem without a strong national policy and leadership from the United States.”