Indiana students demand action on climate change. Lawmakers respond with hard ‘no.’

It’s obvious to many people. To the cities of Indiana that are taking steps to reduce their emissions. For the Hoosier farmers who are experiencing reduced crop yields from wetter springs and warmer summers. For high school students who are afraid of what their future might look like, demanding Indiana leaders are making a difference.

And yet, state legislators seem to be wearing blinders when it comes to climate change, according to environmental experts and advocates.

Three pieces of legislation have been proposed for this collection. Two bills would create task forces to tackle climate change. The second is a resolution that says “The Indiana General Assembly recognizes climate change as a serious issue for Indiana.”

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However, neither the bills nor the decision have even been scheduled for consultation in the environmental committees to which they have been assigned. Deadline to do so is this week.

Environmental groups across the state are frustrated, but not surprised.

“This says Indiana has a long way to go in taking climate change seriously as a threat to our economy, our environment and the Hoosiers,” said Sean Mobley, senior climate and clean energy policy officer at The Nature Conservancy in Indiana.

Many actions are initiated by the private sector and everyday Hoosiers, he said, “but until the state begins to support these actions and encourage others to do the same, we have work to do.”

Late. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper, who chairs the Senate Environment Committee, told IndyStar he does not plan to consult Senate legislation. The chairman of the house committee, rep. Mike Speedy, R-Indianapolis, did not respond to IndyStars’ requests for comment.

Climate change is an Indiana problem

Climate change is an Indiana problem

A bill in Congress and the Senate will set up a two-part commission or task force of experts to make recommendations on steps Indiana can take to tackle climate change. Senate Bill 255 is authored by Senator Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, and House Bill 1287 is authored by Rep. Read also : Indiana Democrats call on state to legalize marijuana. Carey Hamilton, D-Indianapolis.

Alting also authored Senate Concurrent Resolution 3, which recognizes climate change and says “all Hoosiers, especially those most vulnerable to change in Indiana’s climate, must be protected through adaptive climate solutions.”

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The driving force behind these bills is a student group called Confront the Climate Crisis, which was launched in West Lafayette in 2020. The student-run organization now has students from communities across Indiana, including Evansville, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis and Gary.

They worked closely with the Alting, which represents the West Lafayette area, to draft the resolution and the Senate bill calling for a task force on climate change.

“We are the ones who will grow up and inherit the state and deal with the future they leave for us,” said Rahul Durai, a sophomore at West Lafayette Jr./Sr. High School, which also serves as the legislative director of the group.

That future looks challenging, according to research from Purdue University’s Indiana Climate Change Impact Assessment.

The state has already warmed up and temperatures are expected to rise a further 6 degrees Fahrenheit by the middle of the century, according to the assessment. It can reduce crop yields and create more favorable conditions for pests such as mosquitoes and ticks as well as invasive species.

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The number of extreme heat days is expected to more than quadruple in some areas of the state, causing problems with heat-related diseases, especially for young and older people in urban areas, the assessment found.

The average annual rainfall has already increased by nearly 6 inches in Indiana, and winter and spring will continue to get even wetter. That the rain comes in heavier rain showers, the assessment says, with the potential to cause floods, make it harder to plant crops and contaminate the water with additional sewer overflow and manure runoff.

Not only are the effects clear, it is also Indiana’s role in it. Indiana emits some of the most carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas that causes climate change – from any state in the nation. This is because much of Indiana’s energy comes from fossil fuels, and the state is the most production-intensive in the country. Emissions from transport and agriculture also contribute.

Durai said there are plenty of opportunities to address these issues and many important decisions need to be made.

“But we have not seen enough action from the state government,” he continued. “That’s why we as young people are leading the charges, but we believe the older generation should step up because they are the ones in power.”

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‘Start the climate conversation’ 

'Start the climate conversation' 

Confront the Climate Crisis held an action day in the Statehouse on Tuesday, where they talked to lawmakers about the bills and tried to build support. This may interest you : Indiana Football Future Schedules: Hoosiers Add Home-and-Home Series With Virginia. Durai and his fellow students said they had hoped to talk to Messmer to discuss hearing the bills, but never got the chance.

Messmer told IndyStar on Wednesday that he does not plan to hear the task force’s bill or decision.

He said he felt the Task Force bill was superfluous because these issues could be addressed in an interim committee or through the 21st Century Energy Policy Task Force. But there is no guarantee that an interim committee will address the issue, and the chairman of the Energy Task Force has said more than once that the group’s purpose is not to discuss climate change.

Even if the Energy Task Force were to discuss aspects of climate change, it would be limited to only one sector: energy and utilities. Durai said there are many other areas that also require attention, such as agriculture, manufacturing and transportation.

As for the resolution, Messmer said he did not have a problem with the language of the resolution itself, but took issues with some aspects of the preamble – although he could not point to any details. The preamble to the resolution points to Purdue’s research and lists national bodies such as the US Department of Defense that have found climate change a risk.

Unlike the state, cities across Indiana recognize climate change as a threat. Some conduct surveys to calculate their emissions and implement strategies to reduce those emissions. Others set goals to be CO2 neutral.

While these actions are important, the Nature Conservancy’s Mobley said they are not enough without incentives for climate mitigation from the state.

Jonathan Siskind, senior at West Lafayette Jr./Sr. High School, said students have heard much more no than yes from state lawmakers.

Students in the Confront the Climate Crisis acknowledge that climate has long been a divisive issue, even though they do not understand why – it affects everyone regardless of a person’s political beliefs, they said.

Still, they hoped the collaboration with Alting, a Republican and one of Indiana’s longtime lawmakers, would have helped put more emphasis behind the bill and the resolution. Everything did not respond to IndyStar’s requests for comment.

Siskind said he and his colleagues have put hundreds of hours of work into this legislation and built a coalition.

“Our first goal was to start the conversation about climate change in Indiana,” he said. “The fact that Indiana is a very conservative state, we want to make more Hoosiers open to this.”

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Need to act now

Need to act now

Not only is the state legislature not addressing climate change, it has sometimes taken steps in the opposite direction during recent meetings, according to climate advocates. This may interest you : Indiana General Assembly to reconvene for one-day session after Thanksgiving.

Last year, the general assembly passed a law prohibiting municipalities from imposing restrictions on natural gas in new construction. It also approved a bill removing the protection of wetlands, which play a crucial role in filtering water and preventing floods.

In previous years, the legislature has also eliminated India’s energy efficiency program and phased out a mechanism called net metering, which is designed to help more homeowners install solar panels.

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The fact that legislators will not even hear or consider climate change legislation is ironic, said Kerwin Olson, CEO of the consumer advocacy group Citizens Action Coalition. This is because several other bills being discussed in this session – those on building nuclear reactors in Indiana or collecting and storing carbon dioxide underground – rely on the claim that these technologies are necessary to help reduce carbon emissions that cause climate change.

“The state of Indiana only wants to exploit a small piece of this instead of looking at the big picture,” Olson said. “Let’s hope that the older generation starts listening to the younger generation, because this is one of the main issues where we are transferring a huge debt to our children.”

Late. Shelli Yoder, D-Bloomington, agrees. Yoder serves as the ranking minority member of the Senate Environment Committee, and she said she wished these bills would be heard: “It’s time we need this.”

Yoder said she finds it “absolutely cruel” that her generation does no more and says “bravo” and “we are proud of you” to the next generation for their work on climate change.

“They do not 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 not wait until our generation is out so they can actually make a difference. They need us to act now to create the future they ask for and demand. “

Durai said that every year without action is a missed opportunity to start making changes. Without making changes now, the UN said the world will not be able to avoid warming beyond dangerous levels that could further exacerbate climate disasters, hunger and drought worldwide.

Still, students plan to come back every year until the Indiana legislature listens.

“We’ll have to plan if we’re pushing for something more ambitious that meets the moment,” Durai said. “But we are persistent, and our movement is going nowhere.”

Call IndyStar reporter Sarah Bowman at 317-444-6129 or email Follow her on Twitter and Facebook: @IndyStarSarah. Get in touch with IndyStars environmental reporters: Sign up for The Scrub on Facebook.

IndyStar’s environmental reporting project has been made possible through the generous support of the non-profit organization Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust.

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