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Report: Climate Change Will Cause More Heat-Related Illnesses, Deaths In Indiana

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A U.S. airman drinks water while working on a construction site in extreme heat in Southwest Asia, 2017. (U.S. Air Force/Damon Kasberg)

It’s hot right now in Indiana and it’s only going to get hotter. The Union of Concerned Scientists released a new report on Tuesday that projects how much extreme heat we can expect as the Earth warms. 

If we don’t do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the report estimates that by the end of this century people in Indiana will experience more than 60 days a year where the heat index is above 100 degrees.

That’s about 15 times more than the historical average. UCS senior climate scientist Rachel Licker says longer heat waves will make health problems even worse.

“People aren’t then getting relief from the extreme heat and so we could see an increase in the exacerbation of respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease,” she says.

The extreme heat will hit people in poverty and city dwellers the hardest, but it will also hurt Indiana farmers, their livestock, and crops.

“That’s really fundamentally going to change when farmers can conduct their work and stay safe. That’s going to have an effect on the bottom line for many enterprises,” Licker says.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture report says heat stress already costs the U.S. dairy industry about $1.2 billion a year.

Licker says by rapidly reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, Hoosiers could avoid more than 30 days of deadly heat by the end of this century.

"That's a really big difference and that has a lot of implications for health, for businesses, and really what the future would look like and feel like for our children," she says.

READ MORE: Students Skip Class To Demand Action On Climate Change

Among other things, the Union of Concerned Scientists suggests the U.S. find ways to better prevent and treat heat-related illnesses, invest in heat-smart infrastructure, encourage energy efficiency, and mandate cuts to the country's greenhouse gas emissions.

Indiana environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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