“Future forecast for Indiana: Hot,” by Donna Browne

If I say “August,” what do you say to yourself? Boy, it’s hot. How are the farmers’ crops doing? We need rain.

“Heat in the Heartland: Climate Change and Economic Risk in the Midwest,” a 2015 report available online, projects the economic and health impacts of climate change on Indiana’s future. The Midwest Heartland is America’s crossroads for commodity agriculture, manufacturing and transportation. Indiana is one of America’s most economically productive regions.

How will rising temperatures associated with climate change affect Indiana’s future weather patterns, intensity and timing of precipitation, water availability, crop yields, energy costs, “outdoor” industries, labor productivity, violent crime and heat-related illnesses?

The study brings rising temperature trends into our backyard — Indianapolis. Over the past 30 years, we’ve averaged two days over 95 degrees per year, but this report projects temperatures over 95 degrees will increase to three to 13 days per year by 2040 and to eight to 30 days per year by 2050.

Although we might not recognize yet the changing weather patterns in Indiana, a Ball State geology professor witnessed climate change firsthand when she spent the fall 2015 semester at a lab in Antarctica.

Geology professor Carolyn Dowling will share her experiences at 10 a.m. Sept. 17 in the Large Conference Room at Minnetrista during this year’s Living Lightly Fair.

The Living Lightly Fair, which will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17, on the grounds of Minnetrista.  The event is a resource fair aimed at educating East Central Indiana residents about practical ways to live more sustainably and save money and resources for themselves and future generations.

Prior to Dowling’s presentation, a panel of three local residents will discuss how converting to solar energy is helping local organizations and individuals reduce their energy costs and carbon footprint. The panel will start at 9 a.m. in the Indiana Room at Minnestrista.

But let’s get back to Indiana’s future weather. What do increases in temperature mean for Indiana, according to “Heat in the Heartland”?

These temperatures will likely cause up to 15 additional heat-related deaths per year and up to a 5.8 percent increase in violent crime by the latter part of this century.

Indianapolis’ “outdoor” industries, such as transportation, are at high-risk for a decline in labor productivity of up to 2.8 percent.

Rising temperatures mean that Indianapolis could see an increase in energy costs of up to 23 percent, even after factoring in lower energy costs during warmer winters. This increased cost could have a serious economic impact on businesses, organizations, families and individuals.

And if this is what is predicted for Indianapolis, the rest of Indiana should expect to experience similar conditions.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the greenhouse gases (GHGs), such as carbon, drive climate change and stay in the atmosphere for long periods of time. Earth’s heat-storing oceans also will take many decades to mitigate higher concentrations of GHGs. Therefore, GHG emissions will remain elevated for hundreds of years and surface air temperatures will continue to warm.

As consumers, voters and taxpayers, we can act to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change by changing our behavior and urging political and business leaders to take aggressive action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.   You can use EPA’s online Greenhouse Gas Emissions Calculator to measure the “carbon footprint” of your daily activities and learn easy ways to save money on energy costs and reduce your carbon emissions.

During the Living Lightly Fair, you also can meet with Democrat State Rep. Sue Errington, District 34 in the House of the state legislature, and Republican State Rep. Greg Beumer,  District 33 at 1 p.m. in the Large Conference Room at Minnetrista.

I hope you’ll join me at 9 a.m. at the Living Lightly Fair. I will lead a discussion about the book “The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability — Designing for Abundance” by William McDonough and Michael Braungart in the Small Conference Room at Minnestrista.

Help make a difference. Plan to attend the Living Lightly Fair.

 This article, which appeared in the Muncie Star Press on August 11, was written by Donna Browne, the grant writer for the Center for Energy Research, Education and Service at Ball State University.

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