As the threat of climate change looms over the globe, are Hoosiers expressing concern over its effects? How will climate change affect Indiana, and should Hoosiers be concerned about these effects? In this post, we will explore the expected effects of climate change in Indiana and determine the level of concern among Hoosiers using both our own polling data and the findings of others.
Research findings consistently agree that Indiana will experience consequences of climate change. Temperatures year-round are expected to increase. If carbon emissions continue at a high rate, these increases are expected to be exacerbated. While temperature increases are a major climate concern, winter temperature increases will not be as harmful to the state; in fact, they may have some benefits. Greater winter temperatures will potentially lengthen the growing seasons of crops as well as allow for shipping to and from the state via rivers and the Great Lakes to be extended throughout the year. However, it is possible that these warmer winters, as well as springs, will be wetter and will lead to increase flooding, which can disrupt the benefits of the longer growing season. These warmer winters would also make it easier for pests and diseases to damage crops. Additionally, summer temperatures may increase to the point that the weather becomes hot and dry, making it difficult to grow crops. Despite this, the overall expectation is that Indiana and the Midwest will still be the best location for growing corn and soybeans. Ultimately, while it is believed the state’s agriculture may take a hit due to climate change, it is also believed that Indiana will be able to continue to operate as an agriculture-heavy state.
The warmer weather is expected to decrease cold-related illnesses and deaths while increasing heat-related ones. Additionally, the high temperatures may lead to a decrease in both water and air quality. Increased levels of carbon dioxide cause algal bloom in water bodies to further reduce water quality and disrupt ecosystems. Climate change may also lead to extinction in species of mussels, fish, and amphibians in the state and may harm wild plant life as well. Unlike many areas of the world, Indiana will not be affected by sea levels rising or desertification that will render the area uninhabitable. It is believed that Indiana’s staple crops will still be able to be grown and shipping by water will still occur. As a result, it appears that while Hoosiers do have reasons to be concerned about climate change, Indiana will likely be less affected than other areas of the world, thus potentially giving less reason to be concerned.
Understanding the concerning effects of climate change on Indiana, we delved further into the perception of climate change from Hoosiers. More than many would expect, people were concerned. In a state that is surrounded by the great lakes to the north, the Ohio river to the south, and the White and Wabash rivers running through Indiana, it makes sense that residents worry about the pollution of their waterways. In a 2017 poll conducted by the Morrison Institute of eight hundred registered voters in the state of Indiana, fifty percent were very concerned about pollution in the rivers and lakes and forty percent were somewhat concerned. This trend was consistent across many environmental issues that face Indiana. Most people were relatively concerned in topics like air quality, protection of wildlife, and greenhouse emissions.
Hoosiers tended to express at least some level of concern for all issues, with variations in political party. Democrats and younger female populations voiced the highest concern out of all demographics, while male republicans were the lowest. However, if a closer look is taken, the data runs deeper than the interests of the people in the poll. People care about climate change, but it is simply not a prominent issue for Hoosiers. People reported being more interested in education improvement, healthcare, and attracting and retaining jobs to the eleven percent that said protecting the environment should be the top priority. Only forty-six percent of those people put protecting the environment in their top three priorities. Due to the impersonal nature of climate change and the time it takes for effects to become noticeable in Indiana, people are worried, but not enough to do anything drastic.
This mindset seems to be consistent to us in how Indiana relates to rest of the United States. Indiana is the eighth largest state in contributions to greenhouse gas emissions and the residents’ opinions on climate change reflect poorly to address this issue. According to the Yale Climate Opinion Map (2016), Hoosiers fall behind the national average on global warming worry, perception on how harmful global warming will be to the individual, and perception on how harmful global warming will be to the United States. Hoosiers will water their lawns less, recycle more, and sign petitions, but because most do not see climate change as an immediate threat to the state of Indiana, they have not been found from external data wanting to take all the necessary steps to properly handling climate change.
Our personal data found many similar opinions among Hoosiers. For our survey we polled 153 people on a variety of climate related questions. Our findings were that Hoosiers show a moderate level of concern, scoring a 7.0/10.0 when asked “How worried are you about climate change”. Hoosiers showed less concern about whether or not they would be personally affected(6.4) and higher regarding whether or not other people should care(7.4). This data suggests a problematic mindset, the belief that there is a problem but that it won’t affect them personally.
We sorted the survey responses by four metrics: age, region, gender, and socio-economic class. We found that in all three metrics there were significant differences. The first metric that we evaluated was age. Data showed that with increasing age there was less concern about both climate change and its effect on Indiana. This correlated directly to the opinions of the US economic policy. These changes we believe are the result of new information being taught in schools and exposure to climate change news from a young age.
Our second metric was region. The important distinction was rural vs urban habitation and from the data collected, with 109 urban and 44 rural, concern about climate change was 19.3% higher for people living in urban environments that those in rural areas. This is consistent with a poll of 724 Indiana farmers, where 79% stated that climate change is “an ongoing natural process.” This statistically significant difference may be attributed to similar factors as age, that higher average education results in greater concern for climate change. Urban areas have 46% more college degrees per capita than their rural counterparts, with 41% possessing a degree.
The third metric we used to differentiate groups was gender. Our findings were that on average Hoosiers women(7.6/10) were 20% more concerned about climate change than Hoosier men(6.6). This likely has a multitude of causes, but from research, some of the largest are societal pressures and predispositions.
Our final metric, socio-economic class was the least extreme in the differences between
groups, but still showed that when it comes to caring about climate change the upper class was 16.7% more worried than the lower class. This large gap between upper and
lower class seems to emphasize the impact of education on concern about climate change.
In total, people from Indiana care about climate change. The state itself is very dependent on environmental conditions due to its agricultural foundation and dependency on its bodies of water. This is all well placed concern because the state will experience a myriad of negative repercussions from a changing climate. From water quality in jeopardy, to the risk of multiple years of bad harvests, climate change is something which Hoosiers have reason to be worried. However, with the effects of climate change prominent far from Indiana, and the general worry (perceivably) decades away from today, people do not care enough to adequately prepare for this global crisis. Hoosiers care about climate change, but not enough to make the difference.