Indiana, like every other place in the world, has a climate problem. The state’s average annual temperature has increased by 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit over the last century, and Hoosiers could see temperatures rise another 6 degrees by 2050.
That prediction, which comes from a 2020 assessment from Purdue University, is set to cause serious problems for the state in the coming decades, including an uptick in extreme heat and droughts in the summer and more heavy rain and flooding in the winter and spring. Yet despite those dangers, Indiana is one of 16 states across the country that has yet to adopt—or begin to develop—a statewide plan aimed at addressing global warming and its causes.
Last week, dozens of students marched on the state capitol building, urging their elected officials to take up three bills that they hope will put the state on a clearer path toward addressing the climate crisis. Two of the bills aim to create task forces to tackle state climate issues and one bill is a resolution that simply says “the Indiana General Assembly acknowledges climate change as a serious problem for Indiana.”
Those measures are hardly ambitious when compared to most other plans taken up by U.S. states, many of which set goals or mandates to reduce rising greenhouse gas emissions and direct funds to projects meant to mitigate the consequences of climate change. So, it’s not surprising that Indiana’s climate-conscious youth, along with local environmental groups, are frustrated that the state’s Republican-led government has signaled it doesn’t plan to take up those pieces of legislation this year.
“We’re the ones who will grow up and inherit the state and deal with the future they are leaving for us,” high school sophomore Rahul Durai told the IndyStar, adding that he was disappointed in his state officials but plans to keep fighting. “We are persistent, and our movement isn’t going anywhere.”
Indiana is already experiencing the consequences of global warming. Over the last century, the state saw its average precipitation go up nearly six inches, as well as an increase in heavy downpours, the Purdue assessment said. In the springs of 2018 and 2019, the Hoosier State saw record-breaking floods that forced farmers to delay crop planting, damaged local infrastructure and homes, and even made drinking water unsafe in some places.
At the same time, Indiana’s summer droughts are anticipated to become more severe, the assessment said. When a major dry spell settled across much of the nation in 2012, Indiana was hit especially hard, with much of the state suffering from “severe” to “extreme” drought, a government report found.
The trends pose a financial threat as well. Purdue researchers say that increasingly severe drought and flooding will endanger the state’s $31 billion agricultural industry, predicting that, by mid-century, corn yields will fall by 16 to 20 percent and soybean yields will drop 9 to 11 percent. The warmer air and increased fertilizer runoff could also add to the state’s toxic algal bloom problem, an issue that risks driving up water bills in Indiana’s major cities.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that Indiana is one of the nation’s top contributors of greenhouse gasses, according to an analysis of government data by the IndyStar. In 2018, Indiana’s energy sector emitted 190 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, making it the eighth largest CO2-emitting sector per capita in the nation when compared to other states. Analysts say that’s because while the state is only 17th when it comes to state population size, Indiana still relies heavily on coal for electricity generation.
So will these factors convince Indiana’s lawmakers to start taking climate change seriously? It seems unlikely. Last year, the Indiana General Assembly passed a law prohibiting municipalities from putting restrictions on natural gas in new development and approved a bill stripping protections for wetlands, which serve a crucial role in filtering water and preventing flooding. In effect, Indiana has doubled down on not accepting its climate reality.
That’s how much money the Biden administration has promised in its first clean energy loan guarantee, aimed at scaling up production of so-called “clean hydrogen,” a controversial technology touted by the natural gas industry.