Unchecked Climate Change Would Result in More Heat Waves, More Flooding, and Reduced Crop Yields in Indiana, New Report Finds

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Elliott Negin
Media Director
202-331-5439
enegin@ucsusa.org

Unchecked Climate Change Would Result in More Heat Waves, More Flooding, and Reduced Crop Yields in Indiana, New Report Finds

Congress Considering Legislation that Could Help Indiana and Rest of Nation Avoid Worst Impacts

CHICAGO - If the United States does not significantly curb heat-trapping
emissions, global warming will seriously harm Indiana's climate and
economy, according to a peer-reviewed report released today by the
Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The report also found that a
combination of clean energy policies—such as those currently under
consideration by the U.S. Senate—would help blunt the extent and
severity of climate change in Indiana and nationally.

"The Midwest climate is already changing. Over the past 50 years,
we've seen higher average annual temperatures, more frequent downpours,
longer growing seasons, and fewer cold snaps," said Katharine Hayhoe, a
climate scientist at Texas Tech University and a co-author of the
report. "The future changes documented in this report are sobering. The
silver lining is that we can avoid the worst of them if we dramatically
cut global warming emissions starting in the very near future."

The report, "Confronting Climate Change in Indiana,"
describes how Indiana's climate could change under two scenarios: one
assumes a business-as-usual increase in heat-trapping emissions from
continued heavy reliance on fossil fuels, and the other assumes
substantially lower emissions due to an increased reliance on clean
energy sources. The report compared the two scenarios with a baseline
period between 1961 and 1990.

The report found that toward the end of this century, under the higher, business-as-usual emissions scenario:

CLIMATE: Average summer temperatures in Indiana would be as much as
13 degrees Fahrenheit (°F) higher than the baseline period. During the
30-year baseline period, for example, Indianapolis experienced about 20
days per summer when temperature topped 90°F and less than one day per
summer with temperatures over 100°F. Unchecked global warming would
force city residents to endure more than 80 days per summer with highs
over 90°F and almost a month of days per summer over 100°F.
Indianapolis residents also would face at least two heat waves per
summer like the one that killed hundreds in Chicago in 1995. According
to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heat waves already
kill more people in the United States each year than hurricanes,
tornadoes, floods and lightning combined.

AGRICULTURE: Crops and livestock would experience substantially more
heat stress, depressing crop yields and livestock productivity. Dairy
cattle in Indiana rarely experienced heat stress during the baseline
period, but they would experience it most summers toward the end of the
century unless kept cool in costly air-conditioned barns, for example.
Warmer winters and a growing season as much as six weeks longer than
before 1990 would enable pests, such as the corn earworm, to expand
their range. Crop production would be threatened by changing rain
patterns, ranging from wetter springs—which delay planting and increase
flood risk—to almost 10 percent less rain during the increasingly hot
summers. Crop-damaging three- and seven-day heat waves would occur at
least every other summer toward the end of the century. During the
report's baseline period, three-day heat waves occurred about once a
decade, and seven-day heat waves occurred one out of every 30 summers.

EXTREME WEATHER: Heavy rains would become more common throughout the
year, leading to a greater incidence of flash flooding. Winters and
springs, when the flood risk is already high, would become 30 percent
wetter than during the baseline decades. 

HEALTH: If tailpipe and smokestack emissions continue at the
baseline levels, Indiana will experience more severe smog as the number
of extremely hot days increases. That would have serious consequences
for public health, including a greater incidence of asthma attacks and
other respiratory conditions. For example, ground level ozone—a
dangerous air pollutant and the main component of smog—increases at
temperature higher than 90°F. That is particularly bad news for the 12
counties in the state, including those around Indianapolis, that do not
meet the Environmental Protection Agency's federal ozone standard.

In mid-June, 13 federal agencies released a comprehensive national report
that reviewed the same higher and lower emissions scenarios that UCS
analyzed in the report released today. The federal report similarly
concluded there is still time to avoid the worst consequences of
climate change.

Shortly after the national report came out, the House of
Representatives passed "The American Clean Energy and Security Act," a
landmark bill that would help build a new clean energy economy and
launch the first national plan of action to address global warming. The
bill is currently under consideration in the Senate.

"The science is clear. We have to get started now so that our
children and grandchildren don't suffer through deadly heat waves, and
our farmers don't have to battle more extreme droughts and floods, and
greater pest and weed infestation," said Ron Burke, Midwest office
director at UCS. "Our report shows how critical it is for Indiana's
congressional delegation to support a bill that will get America
running on clean energy." 

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The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world. UCS combines independent scientific research and citizen action to develop innovative, practical solutions and to secure responsible changes in government policy, corporate practices, and consumer choices.

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