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Indiana needs to adapt and mitigate climate change



If you're planning on living in Indiana for more than a few years, then you may be surprised by what the climate will look like.

A new report from the Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment, a project led by the Purdue Climate Change Research Center, contains warnings about how climate change may affect the health of Indiana residents in the coming years.

One of the report’s key findings is that climate change will increase the prevalence of vector-borne diseases, such as malaria and Zika.

The report findings have shown precipitation and flooding have been on the rise in Indiana for 30 years.

Flooding is problematic enough on its own, but as this trend continues, the state will become a better habitat for mosquitoes. With more mosquitoes to carry vector-borne diseases, the diseases are likely to become more common.

The report also predicts injuries and deaths caused by extreme heat in Indiana will increase because of climate change.

While injuries and deaths caused by extreme cold are expected to drop, the overall number of temperature-related injuries and deaths in Indiana is expected to rise.

Ground-level ozone production is likely to increase, worsening air quality. This change can trigger asthma attacks and heart attacks. It can also cause or worsen an array of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

Other warnings contained in the report include predictions that Indiana’s allergy season will lengthen and tick-borne diseases will grow more common.

Responding to these challenges requires a mix of climate change mitigation strategies in order to reduce the effects of climate change and adapt to the changing crisis occurring now.  

It’s no secret that the federal government, as of now, has little interest in climate change mitigation. 

The United States is set to become the only country on Earth not part of the Paris Agreement.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency, under the leadership of climate science denier Scott Pruitt, is actively working to accelerate climate change by weakening fuel economy standards for automobiles.

So, politically, climate change mitigation is hard to accomplish. But scientifically, we know how to do it. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the name of the game.

That requires regulation at every level of government.

Companies and consumers won’t solve the problem on their own. Indiana should follow the lead of other state governments like California and Colorado, which have responded to the federal government’s neglect by implementing their own stricter regulations.

For example, Indiana could pass its own fuel economy standards that match or improve upon the federal standards Pruitt’s EPA is abandoning.

While mitigation should be the priority, adaptation policies are necessary as well.

The spread of vector-borne diseases that is likely to happen in Indiana will require an improved public health infrastructure and wider access to medical care. As the World Health Organization notes, these diseases hit poor populations the hardest.

Indiana may have to look into ways to control its mosquito population, such as by reducing breeding habitats, or through considering biological and genetic methods of population control. 

Some of these practices are still being developed and could use state funding for research.

Another strategy that could use further research is vaccination against vector-borne diseases. Vaccines for malaria, dengue fever and Zika virus have recently shown promise.

A projected increase in flooding may mean Indiana will also have to invest in flood protection strategies that have normally been reserved for wetter parts of the country.

Responding to the threat of climate change must involve putting pressure on all levels of government to introduce scientifically informed policies, including state government. The new Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment report makes this all too clear.

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