Changing climate conditions could decrease Indiana’s agricultural productivity and create problems with municipal wastewater systems, according to the White House climate change report released today.
Sara Pryor is Provost Professor of Atmospheric Science at Indiana University. She served on the advisory board for the report and is the coordinating leader for the Midwest chapter.
“I think there are some clear challenges, but this is also an exciting time,” Pryor says. “The report is unprecedented in its detail, and it allows state quarters to start making concrete steps into reducing vulnerability.”
Indiana’s agricultural industry, in particular, is vulnerable to changing climate conditions and extreme weather.
Wetter springs tend to delay planting of crops, and hotter, drier summers tend to mean that the crops grow less efficiently, suppressing yields.
Another Indiana sector vulnerable to climate change is combined sewage and overflow systems. Heavy rains overwhelm the systems, and untreated sewage is discharged into our waterways, creating a public health hazard.
Projects like The Indy Tunnel in Indianapolis show how Indiana is already starting to adapt to climate change.
Indiana also has atypically high emissions of greenhouse gases associated with our energy sector – about 20 percent higher than the national average.
Coal-fired power plants use a lot of water for cooling. So if we experience drought conditions, that means their operation is curtailed – and less electricity is generated.
“We have more confidence now that ever that it is human activities that are causing climate change and that climate change is occurring,” Pryor says. “So the state of Indiana is about 1 and a half degrees warmer, on average, than it was one hundred years ago.”