It’s obvious to a lot of people. To the Indiana cities who are taking steps towards reducing their carbon emissions. To the Hoosier farmers, who are experiencing lower crop yields due to hotter summers and wetter springs. Students at high school who are afraid for their future, urging Indiana leaders to make a difference.
Yet, The state legislature seems to have blinders.According to environmental advocates and experts, climate change is a serious issue.
This session has seen three pieces of legislation. Two bills would create task force to tackle climate change issues. The other is a resolution that says “the Indiana General Assembly acknowledges climate change as a serious problem for Indiana.”
Neither the bills nor the resolution, however, have even been scheduled for a hearing in the environmental committees they’ve been assigned to. This week is the deadline.
Environmental groups from across the state are frustrated but not surprised.
“This says that Indiana has a long way to go in taking climate change seriously as a threat to our economy, our environment and Hoosiers,” said Sean Mobley, the senior policy associate for climate and clean energy at The Nature Conservancy, Indiana.
Many actions are being undertaken by the private sector and everyday Hoosiers, he said, “but until the state starts supporting these actions and incentivizing others to do the same, we have work to do.”
IndyStar was informed by Sen. Mark Messmer, R.Jasper, who chairs Senate Environmental Affairs Committee. He said he did not intend to hear any legislation from the senate. IndyStar asked Rep. Mike Speedy from Indiana for comment. Speedy is the chair of the House committee.
Climate change is a problem in Indiana
One bill would be introduced in the Senate and House to create a bipartisan commission/task force that includes experts to make recommendations regarding Indiana’s actions to address climate change. Senate Bill 255This is the authored version by Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette. House Bill 1287It was written by Rep. Carey Hamilton of Indianapolis.
Alting also wrote Senate Concurrent Resolution 3, which recognizes climate change and says “all Hoosiers, particularly those most vulnerable to changes in Indiana’s climate, must be protected through adaptive climate solutions.”
These bills are driven by a student group called Climate Crisis: Take Action, which was founded in West Lafayette in 2020. The student-run group now has students from Indiana’s communities of Evansville, Fort Wayne (Indiana), Indianapolis, and Gary.
They worked closely with Alting (West Lafayette area representative) to draft the Senate bill and the resolution calling for a climate task force.
“We’re the ones who will grow up and inherit the state and deal with the future they are leaving for us,” said Rahul Durai, a sophomore at West Lafayette Jr./Sr. High School who serves as the group’s legislative Director.
That future looks challenging, according to research from Purdue University’s Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment.
The state has warmed up already and the temperatures are expected to rise. An additional 6 degrees could be added Fahrenheit by mid-century, according to the assessment. This can decrease crop yields and create more favorable environments for pests like ticks and mosquitoes, as well as invasive species.
According to the assessment, extreme heat days will more than quadruple in certain areas of the state, leading to heat-related illnesses in young and old people living in urban areas.
Indiana’s average annual precipitation has increased by almost 6 inches. Winter and spring will get wetter. That rain is coming in heavier downpours, the assessment says, with the potential to cause floods, make it More difficult to plant cropsMoreover, they pollute the waterways with additional sewer overflows or fertilizer runoff.
Not only are the impacts clear, so too is Indiana’s role in it. Indiana Some of the highest levels of carbon dioxide are released by this country — a climate change-causing greenhouse gas — of any state in the nation. That’s because much of Indiana’s energy comes from fossil fuels and the state is the most manufacturing-intensive in the nation. Transport and agriculture also contribute.
Durai said that there are many options to address these problems and many important decisions to make.
“But we haven’t seen enough action from the state government,” he continued. “That’s why we as youth are leading the charge, but we do think the older generation needs to step up because they are the ones in power.”
“Start the Climate Conversation”
Tuesday saw Confront the Climate Crisis hold an action day at Statehouse, where they met with legislators and tried to build support. Durai and his classmates said that they had hoped to meet with Messmer to discuss the bills. However, they never got to do so.
Messmer told IndyStar Wednesday that he does not plan to hear the task force bill or the resolution.
He said that he felt the task force bill was redundant because those issues could be addressed in an interim committee or through the 21st Century Energy Policy Task Force. But there’s no guarantee an interim committee will address the topic and the chair of the energy task force has said more than once that the group’s purpose is not to discuss climate change.
Even if energy task force was to discuss aspects on climate change, this would be limited only to one sector: energy and utilities. Durai stated that there are other areas that require attention as well, such as transportation, agriculture, and manufacturing.
As for the resolution, Messmer said he didn’t have a problem with the resolution language itself, but took issue with some aspects of the preamble — though he could not point to any specifics. The preamble of the resolution points to Purdue’s research and lists national bodies such as the U.S. Department of Defense that have found climate change to be a risk.
Indiana cities recognize climate change, but they are not like the state. Some cities are doing studies to determine their emissions and are implementing strategies that will reduce them. Others have set goals to become carbon neutral.
While those actions are important, the nature conservancy’s Mobley said they are not enough without climate-mitigation incentives from the state.
Jonathan Siskind, a senior student at West Lafayette Jr./Sr. High School students said they have heard more noes about state lawmakers than yeses.
The Confront the Climate Crisis students acknowledge climate has long been a dividing issue, though they don’t understand why — it affects everyone regardless of a person’s political beliefs, they said.
Still, they hoped that working with Alting, a Republican and one of Indiana’s longer-serving legislators, would have helped put more weight behind the bill and resolution. Alting did not respond to IndyStar’s requests for comment.
Siskind said that he and his colleagues have invested hundreds of hours in this legislation and building the coalition.
“Our number one goal was to start the climate change conversation in Indiana,” he said. “The fact that Indiana is a very conservative state, we want to make more Hoosiers open to this.”
You must act immediately
Climate advocates claim that the state legislature is not taking action on climate change and has sometimes taken steps in the other direction during recent sessions.
The General Assembly approved a law last year Municipalities are prohibited from imposing restrictionson natural gas in new developments. It also approved a bill Removal of protections for wetlandsThey play a vital role in filtering water and preventing flooding.
In previous years, also the legislature eliminated Indiana’s energy efficiency program A mechanism known as net metering was phased outThis is a way to help more homeowners install solar panel systems.
The fact that the legislature won’t even hear or consider legislation on climate change is ironic, said Kerwin Olson, executive director of consumer-advocacy group Citizens Action Coalition. That’s because several other bills being discussed this session — ones about building nuclear reactors in Indiana or capturing and storing carbon dioxide underground — rely on the claim these technologies are needed to help reduce carbon emissions that cause climate change.
“The state of Indiana only wants to capitalize on a small piece of this rather than looking at the big picture,” Olson said. “Let’s hope the older generation starts to listen to the younger generation, because this is one of the main issues where we are passing on a huge debt to our children.”
Sen. Shelli Yoder, D-Bloomington, agrees. Yoder serves as the ranking minority member on the Senate Environmental Affairs Committee and she said she wished these bills would get a hearing: “It’s about time, we need this.”
Yoder said she finds it “absolutely atrocious” that her generation isn’t doing more and is saying “bravo” and “we are proud of you” to the next generation for their work on climate change.
“They don’t want our pride. They want our activism, they want our voice, and they want us to actively pass bills to create a future for them,” she said. “They can’t wait until our generation is out so they can actually make a difference. They need us to act now to create the future they are asking for and demanding.”
Durai said that every year without any action is a wasted opportunity to make positive changes. The United Nations stated that the world cannot make changes if it does not act now. won’t be able to avoid warmingBeyond dangerous levels could lead to further climate disasters, droughts, and hunger around the world.
The students will still be returning every year until the Indiana legislature listens.
“We will have to strategize about if we push for something more ambitious that meets the moment,” Durai said. “But we are persistent, and our movement isn’t going anywhere.”
Sarah Bowman, IndyStar reporter at 317-44-6129 or email at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter Facebook: @IndyStarSarah. Connect with IndyStar’s environmental reporters: Join Facebook: The Scrub.
IndyStar is made possible by the generous support of Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust.