Indiana is nicknamed “The Hoosier State,” but confusion about what “hoosier” means persists today. Letters dating to the 19th century link the term “hoosher nest” to the cabins built by colonizers who settled in Indiana. Known for its vast cornfields, Indiana boasts a population of 6.7 million and spans nearly 36 thousand square miles.
Changing weather patterns are already adversely affecting Indiana’s economy, which is heavily dependent on agriculture. In 2019, corn production was down 16% and soybean production down 20% compared with 2018, a downturn that the US Department of Agriculture linked to near-historic precipitation. Unfortunately, these statistics represent a developing trend, as rainfall has risen significantly since the mid-20th century and three of the top five precipitation events in the state have occurred within the past five years. In addition to hindering crop yields, flooding threatens Indiana’s infrastructure and residential buildings.
Increasing temperatures are directly linked to the increased in participation as we are also seeing in other parts of the Midwest. Since 1895, Indiana has seen its average temperature increase by 1.2 degrees, and that is expected to become a 6 degree increase by 2050. Between more extreme precipitation events, droughts are expected to accompany the hotter temperatures. These challenges will impact the food and water security of many Indiana residents, and negatively impact their health. Cold-weather events help to control pest populations, and insect-borne illnesses are expected to escalate as the climate warms.
As of 2019, Indiana is still heavily dependent on coal and ranked third in coal consumption after North Dakota and Texas, with nearly 60% of Indiana’s energy coming from coal. Indiana is consuming renewable resources as well — 6% of the state’s electricity came from wind in 2019. However, biomass, solar, and hydropower only accounted for 1% combined. Due in large part to its heavy coal reliance, Indiana is the eighth largest-emitter of greenhouse gases of all the states.
Indiana’s relatively new Energy Policy Task Force has been charged with developing a state-wide energy plan. So far, however, a plan does not yet exist. In discussing a transition away from coal, legislators have floated misguided concerns about renewable resources’ lacking reliability. To the frustration of both environmentalists and utility groups, legislators in the state House utilities committee brought forward a bill that would require utilities to get the state’s permission before shutting down a coal plant.
In the void left by state leadership, eleven Indiana cities have stepped forward as part of Indiana University Resilience Cohort program. The program was developed in 2019 and helps cities take greenhouse gas inventories and develop reduction plans. Thanks to this program, local governments representing 35% of the state’s population have competed inventories.