Hoosiers and Climate Change: Why They Don’t Care and Why They Should - Chloe Carter, Benjamin Crumbacher, Varun Phadke (Group 9)
Climate change has world-wide effects and Indiana is not exempt from those changes. Many isolate the idea of climate change to melting ice caps and rising sea levels, but landlocked states like Indiana are also facing serious challenges. Indiana faces reduced water and air quality, decreased crop productivity, heavy rainfall, heat waves, shorter winters which increase tick and lyme disease exposure, delayed freezes which lengthen ragweed allergy seasons, and species loss like the blue karner butterfly (Dukes 2018). All of these impact everyday life in Indiana. Increases in lyme disease, allergies, flood induced water-borne illness, and heat-related ailments all affect the health of Hoosiers. Flooding, storm damage, and heat waves can damage infrastructure, houses, bridges, and buildings, thus costing the state, the taxpayer, and individuals more of their hard earned cash. By this logic, everyone should care about climate change, or at least it’s affects.
Determining whether Indiana citizens care about climate change is not particularly simple. Climate change is a controversial and partisan subject. Democrats and republicans in both the general population and in government routinely fall on separate sides of the issues surrounding climate change and policies driven by it.
Indiana is historically a very Republican state. In presidential elections, the state has voted Democrat only once since 1968, and twice since 1940. This is also reflected in the state’s representatives. Indiana currently has 9 US representatives, 7 Republican and 2 Democrat. According to the League of Conservation Voters, the Republican representatives have combined to vote for less than 6% of Pro-environment action introduced to the house, whereas the democratic representatives have voted for over 80%. The trend holds in the senate, where Todd Young rarely votes for climate legislation (3%) and Joe Donnelly votes for about 59%. All this would seem to indicate that Hoosiers do not care about climate change, at least when they are voting.
A poll conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication asked several questions about climate change to people around the country. The results were then separated by party and state. The results from the most pertinent questions are included below in figure 1.
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This poll shows a different result from the extremes highlighted in Indiana’s lawmakers. This chart shows that over half of republicans support regulating Carbon Dioxide emissions, which is a much different stance than the state’s lawmakers’ dogged denial of climate change and its impacts. Because of the political party system, these voters are left with choosing between two representatives that they do not completely agree with. The GOP would be reluctant to support any candidate who would vote for sweeping environmental policy change. This could be one of the reasons environmental legislation rarely makes it through congress, even though a majority of the US wants change.
Indiana is about 55% republican and 40% democrat. That would mean about 40% of Indiana citizens are worried about climate change consequences and 62% support carbon dioxide regulation. In some cases, there might be a majority of the state that cares about climate change. Clearly there is more than a 7:2 ratio. Part of Indiana cares about climate change, but their voices are drowned out by those who religiously vote red.
Climate change has always been a very controversial topic and is subject to every individuals opinion. In a state like Indiana with huge chunk of the population working on agriculture and in factories the outlook of climate change is affected. With increasing concerns about climate change in the population, the jobs of a lot of people have come under scrutiny leading to a negative outlook about the same. With climate change and its effects not being mandatory to be taught to all the students in middle or high schools they do not have a opportunity to think and make a well reasoned judgement about this topic. The ever changing political scenario in Indiana does not help with the situation.
After talking to several students who go to school at Purdue the truth about Indiana’s attitude about climate change has come forth which is that a small group of individuals believe in climate change and they are ignored by the majority in the society as ‘liberal outcasts.’ For people who believe that climate change is a hoax they have reasons which are directly linked to their livelihood and with no food on the table at home for children they tend to ignore the much less direct threats due to climate change. When increasing rain or drought patterns along with sudden tornadoes it would be natural to assume that Hoosiers should be concerned about climate change but that isn’t happening. Climate change awareness leads to oil industry which if on decline affects jobs in factories which are a major source of income for a lot of people in Indiana. Thus it becomes a circle which Hoosiers cannot jump out of causing them to believe that climate change is hoax. This unsurprisingly aligns with the political affiliations of a majority of Indiana residents.
We believe that the effects climate change has on Indiana should spur a motivation to do something. That hoosiers across the state should be armed with the knowledge of what is being done to the planet and prepared to do what they can to change the way they treat the planet. With lives being impacted and the hard stance our political leaders have taken, Hoosiers need to stand up for the planet, vote to elect more officials who care, implement change in their own lives, and work to create green policies in local businesses. The jobs that hoosiers rely on could be revolutionized with newer, greener, technologies if investments came from places who have the environment in mind. As of right now, life in Indiana is business as usual, and something should be done before disaster strikes, and it’s too late to make real change.
Dukes, J. & Widhelm M. (January 2018). What Will Climate Change Mean in Indiana? Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment Factsheet. Retrieved from http://www.purdue.edu/discoverypark/climate/docs/ClimateFactsJan2018.pdf
League of Conservation Voters. (2017). 2017 National Environmental Scorecard. Retrieved from http://scorecard.lcv.org/sites/scorecard.lcv.org/files/LCV_Scorecard-2017-Full.pdf
Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. (2016). Partisan Climate Opinion Maps 2016. Retrieved from http://climatecommunication.yale.edu/visualizations-data/partisan-maps-2016/?est=human&group=rep&type=value&geo=cd