No debate needed on climate change

As the world’s population deals with accelerating sea level rise, intensifying droughts and floods, and dying coral reefs, our Environmental Protection Agency should not be spending taxpayer dollars to distract Americans with a fabricated, made-for-TV debate.

Recent surveys reveal that many Americans are rapidly recognizing the causes of climate change, including those responding to a survey published in the IndyStar. According to the poll, fully three quarters of Indiana voters understand that climate change is predominantly caused by human actions. While this is a dramatic increase from past polls, we’re still not in line with climate scientists. Well over 90 percent of the scientists studying Earth’s climate (most measures suggest around 97 percent), agree that the heat-trapping gases humans have released to the atmosphere are the main cause of change. The science is clear.

Although climate scientists, and scientists in general, overwhelmingly attribute climate change to human actions, special interest groups have been working for decades to obscure this consensus.

Now, as Hoosiers show a better understanding of the science, an effort from within our federal government will again try to confuse matters. A flashy performance is being planned that will portray the science of climate change as controversial, rather than widely accepted. It will even go by a colorful, patriotic-sounding name: A “red team/blue team exercise.”

This is EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s production, designed to give a big microphone to a “red team” drawn from the tiny minority of scientists who consistently, against a flood of contradicting research, dispute man’s role in the warming of our planet.

Pruitt wants to take a page out of the cynical playbook to “teach the controversy” on issues seen as potential threats. Long ago this was the strategy for the hazards of smoking; today a few well-funded think tanks continue this practice with climate change. But the science has moved far past questioning the role of humans in our climate system. We should be doing more productive things – identifying and solving the problems of climate change.

Televised debates are not designed to deeply test our understanding of complex subjects like the natural world, or of human maladies. These topics are vetted by the rigorous peer review that is part of all sound scientific research. Peer reviewers are our everyday red team. These scientists in our discipline carefully look over proposals and papers and search out their flaws. The reviewers send their anonymous, unvarnished criticisms to the editors and evaluation panels who serve as the gatekeepers for science. This peer-review editors and evaluation panels who serve as the gatekeepers for science. This peer-review process is the foundation of the scientific understandings that we have today.

Ask any climate scientist and you will hear that there are plenty of active areas of research that are worth further study. Some issues sound fairly basic: How much warming will a given amount of a heat-trapping gas cause over time? Others sound more complex: How much longer can nature soak up increasing amounts of these gases, partially compensating for human emissions?

In reality, these knowledge gaps remain because our climate system involves so many different processes, chemicals and interacting species. But although some uncertainty about the details of our climate system remains, the general effects of heat-trapping gasses on the atmosphere have been clear for decades. Our confidence that these gases are the dominant cause of warming has only risen with additional scrutiny. At the same time, three consecutive years of global temperature records have brought many of the negative consequences of climate change for people and nature into sharper focus.

What we can do locally – the thing that we really need a team for – is to figure out how to deal with the ongoing changes, and how best to slow down the rate of change. The good news is, many Indiana scientists and citizens have already formed teams to work on these issues.

One major effort now underway, involving 59 participating organizations and nearly 100 scientists from across the state, is the Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment. This project, led by the Purdue Climate Change Research Center, will give Hoosiers information that they can use to plan for the future. Climate change will affect our agriculture and infrastructure, our health and our ecosystems; for each of these topics, and many more, top researchers from around the state are bringing together the best available information to help describe what we can expect in Indiana over the course of this century. The next step will be to get groups together to address specific challenges.

By treating climate science as a controversy, the head of the EPA is misreading the political climate. Instead of using uncertainty as an excuse for inaction, he should be working to protect the planetary climate and to ready the country for the changes underway.

The recent poll found that most Hoosiers already understand the science – they’re already on the blue team.

Jeffrey Dukes

Director, Purdue Climate Change Research Center

View the story on the Indianapolis Star website: No debate needed on climate change



Stay Connected with the IN CCIA Newsletter

The Purdue Climate Change Research Center (PCCRC) has launched an e-newsletter to keep everyone informed about the latest news and events surrounding the Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment (IN CCIA).  Please join our mailing list if you would like to subscribe to the newsletter. Archived issues are available on the IN CCIA website, and you can read the inaugural issue below.
Issue 1 – February 2016Picture2.png


Welcome to the inaugural issue of the Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment (IN CCIA) newsletter! You’re receiving this newsletter because you’ve expressed interest in learning more about the IN CCIA. We’re planning on sending these brief updates on a regular basis to keep you informed about the latest news and events surrounding the assessment.

About the IN CCIA


Our climate shapes our lives. The ways we build our roads, manage our farms, move our water, and use our energy are all influenced by our unique Indiana climate. But our climate has been changing, and we expect it to continue changing in ways that will affect our productivity, our safety, and our livelihoods.

Driven by the need to know what climate change means for Indiana, scientists and decision makers from across the state are coming together provide accessible, credible climate science to Hoosiers.

Led by the Purdue Climate Change Research Center, the Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment (IN CCIA) will bring together the best available climate change research into a series of reports that will help Hoosiers better understand climate change-related risks so they can prepare for challenges and capitalize on opportunities.

Upcoming Events

We are committed to creating information that matters. That means your feedback throughout this process is essential! Here is a look at some of our upcoming events.

February 10, 2016
West Lafayette, IN

The Joint Transportation Research Program (JTRP) will be hosting a poster session for INDOT Executive Staff and Directors. The IN CCIA will have a poster titled: “Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment – Finding Useful Information for the Transportation Sector.”

February 18, 2016
Indianapolis, IN

Melissa Widhalm, IN CCIA Coordinator, will be meeting with planners to discuss climate change information needs for state and local hazard mitigation planning.

March 3, 2016
Northwest Indiana

The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) and the IN CCIA team will be co-hosting two listening sessions with environmental and municipal planners to discuss climate change issues and information needs.

Would you like to get involved? Contact Melissa Widhalm, IN CCIA Coordinator for details.

Climate Facts

Did you know…

December 2015 was the warmest December on record for Indiana (dating back to 1895). Warm winters have the benefit of reduced heating costs and improved travel conditions. However, unseasonably warm winters can be harmful to plants that rely on a specific dormancy period, and it can lead to increased insect populations later in the year.

Observations show an on-going warming trend in winter temperatures across Indiana, and this trend is predicted to continue into the future.


Copyright © 2016 Purdue Climate Change Research Center, All rights reserved.

Contact Us:
Melissa Widhalm, IN CCIA Coordinator

Footsteps of the Indigenous Peoples

Written by Suraya Williams


Participating in the events at COP21 has been a great learning experience. I have been getting a glimpse of the entire world and how climate change affects it. From the conferences and presentations that I have analyzed over the past couple of days, I have gained a better understanding of what it is going to take to really slow down climate change. It’s going to take a change of mindset of how people view each other and the Earth. People need to be able to think beyond themselves and beyond the here-and-now. Individuals need to be aware of their differences and commonalities with each other. For example, indigenous peoples share this world with us and need to be recognized because climate change has the largest effect on their livelihoods and threatens their cultures. They are often ignored when it comes to fighting climate change, and I have realized that their traditional knowledge should be valued because it has sustained their lives for numerous generations. The knowledge of indigenous peoples has been passed down and evolved from their robust connection with the earth, which is a connection that all people should have. Indigenous people set the example of how to be in tune with the Earth and to be aware of their actions. Once people can do this, I believe true progress can be made. We need to follow in the footsteps of indigenous peoples.

“Nature Doesn’t Need People. People Need Nature”: Conservation International’s Approach to Climate Change

This is the fifth in our digital ethnography series.
Written by Zachary Reaver

Throughout COP21, I have been following the online presence of Conservation International (CI).  I usually wait until late in the evening to collect my data, making sure I don’t miss any tweets or Facebook posts that have been made throughout the day and evening.  I begrudgingly made a Twitter and Instagram account for this project, although I have been fascinated by how much all of these different types of social media are produced and consumed.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with CI, it is a very large environmental nonprofit nongovernmental organization (NGO) founded in 1987 by Spencer Beebe and Peter Seligmann.  Mr. Seligmann still serves as CI’s CEO and is actually one of the attendees at COP21.  Starting with modest beginnings, CI now has offices in over 30 countries and works with more than 1,000 other organizations, including businesses such as Starbucks and Walmart.  CI tries to champion many different causes, but their main push is to emphasize the importance of nature.  In the context of COP21, CI has claimed that nature can provide up to 30% of the solution for climate change in terms of restoring and maintaining forests, coastlines, etc. for carbon sequestration.

Conservation International has been very active both leading up to and during COP21.  In preparation for the negotiations, CI actually released its own final position paper with specific goals, metrics, and recommended text for the final agreement on such areas as adaptation, mitigation, and finance.  In addition, CI started two major “campaigns” for COP21: the first is a video series called “Nature is Speaking”, in which CI has enlisted famous actors and actresses to voice various components of nature, such as Liam Neeson as Ice, Kevin Spacey as The Rainforest, and Harrison Ford as The Ocean.  These videos have been released over the past year leading up to COP21, with a final video, “Home” being debuted on December 10th at the conference (by the time you read this, you should probably be able to go watch it online!).  These videos are definitely worth a watch, and enforce the message that “Nature Doesn’t Need People. People Need Nature.”  The second campaign is through social media with the hashtag #INeedNature.  This campaign encourages anyone around the world to take a picture in nature and submit it to CI, either through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or their main website.  CI has been collecting these photos and will also be showcasing them on December 10th at COP21. Conservation International also hosted a session at COP21 on December 8th with CEOs and chairmen of Walmart, IKEA, Agropalm, and Kellogg to discuss the importance of businesses and corporations in contributing to climate change solutions.

I think it is impressive to see the presence and influence that a non-state actor such as Conservation International can have, bringing together celebrities, CEOs, and even heads of state (Anote Tong, President of Kiribati, which is one of the most at-risk nations due to sea level rise, is a prominent CI board member) to combat climate change.  I am very interested to see the final outcome of COP21 and hope that a strong agreement is made!

If you are interested in the “Nature is Speaking” and #INeedNature pictures, please see the following sites:

1.5 to stay alive, #blacklivesmatter

Written by Sarah Huang


As we come to the final days of the climate negotiations here in Paris, you can hear and see the presence of voices of masses coming together asking for more than what is currently on the table. Well as of right now, there is language to hold the temperature increase below 2 degrees C and to make efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees C. But is 1.5 enough? On any given day you can hear the chant, “1.5 to stay alive”, calling for the climate agreement to set the limit to an increase of no more than 1.5 degrees C. But today, the chants and movement of people in Climate Generations was different. Instead today you could hear, “1.5 to stay alive, Black Lives Matter, We Can’t Breathe, We Gon Be All Right” as a group of young black and white individuals marched around with signs saying “My Life, My Fight” and other sign. And as the crowd marched around, I heard in the crowd, “Does this have anything to do with climate change?”. And to this person in the crowd, YES!

Black and brown bodies are disproportionately discriminated against in the effects of climate change. Black and brown bodies are made criminal to their very existence on this earth and are put into scenarios where their lives, experiences, and histories are delegitimized as elite, privileged, wealthy, and white majorities continue a saga of oppression. Because if we are truly honest with ourselves, the economic and political order that is built on the oppressive, imperialist, and colonialist history of most of these wealthy nations will only continue to oppress these people. But most importantly, what the Black Lives Matter movement brings to the climate justice fight, is the intentional oppression and discrimination placed on black and brown bodies as wealthy nations continue to deny their responsibility towards the destruction of environments and livelihoods.

It has been hard to hear the stories and experiences of individuals, families, and communities of indigenous peoples from all over the world as they open their hearts and their lives to strangers here at COP21. I have struggled as I try to understand how we can live in a system that continues to be ignorant of the pathways of destruction that targets communities of indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities while silencing their experiences and voices. But as I hear these voices being raised in the climate spaces and throughout Paris during these past two weeks, I know that people are not dying in silence. So listen when groups and movements are aligning and to the voices saying that we can’t breathe in contaminated air and we won’t be silenced.

Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network in Paris 2015

​Written by Dominique Fry
This is the fourth post in our digital ethnography series​

With the COP21 proceedings in Paris this week, we have been following a number of groups. My specific group is The Women’s Earth and Climate Caucus. The WECC has a project called Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network, International, or WECAN for short, which is a solutions-based, multi- faceted effort established to engage women worldwide to take action as powerful stakeholders in climate change and sustainability solutions. WECAN has been a powerful force in past environmental negotiations.

WECAN participated in COP20 in Lima Peru with the Women and Gender Constituency. The group worked inside the formal negotiations and also outside of the talks in the streets along with civil society. They had panels discussing the value of women in global change and also focused on the importance of indigenous women. WECAN participated in the Lima’s Peoples March along side their Indigenous allies.

In Paris, WECAN is collaborating with the same groups inside the negotiations and also in civil society again. So far during the talks, they have had a pretty large social media presence online The main themes of all communications from Paris include emphasizing the importance of women and indigenous people in solving environmental issues and making sure women’s voices are heard. WECAN has participated in panels discussing various topics and will continue to do so next week.
I am intrigued by this group because the values of WECAN are that women are the power holders. Women need to be better represented in negotiations as well as have a louder voice. I am inspired by the values they are trying to promote and excited to see what they can do to both empower women and also bring to the table at COP21 this week in Paris.


This is the third post in our digital ethnography series
Written by Rohit D Bhonagiri
​This blog is also posted on Rohit’s personal blog


As carbon sinks of the world, forests are the lungs of this planet and the waterways its veins. Monica Camacho, from the Rainforest Foundation Norway, provides the perfect slogan “One of the objectives of the new agreement is to reduce CO2 and the best way to do that is by conserving natural forests and natural ecosystems.” Indigenous people from around the world are trying to have their voice represented although they do not receive much representation in COP21.

Indigenous communities are leading the way to combat climate change.  #COP21
— WRI Governance (@WRIGovernance) December 2, 2015

I have been up early to catch up on the press briefings for the day. At 6.30AM, I’m in the library with my fellow colleagues facing a different crisis. I usually need a dose of coffee to invigorate all the five senses, today but Kelly Stone had me at ‘food insecurity’. As a background, I come from the state of Maharashtra in India which has faced massive droughts in the agricultural lands of the Vidarbha. According to the Hindu my state has sees about 10 farmer suicides every day due to climate change and water and energy intensive GM (genetically modified) cotton.  I consider farmers as Indigenous people especially after the rise of Big Agriculture.

Ms. Stone went on further to say that land mitigation techniques for biomass and biofuels as alternative energy sources could lead to family farmers being kicked off their lands. She also spoke on behalf of a young farmer by the name of Odunke from Nigeria who came to Paris to represent his farming community but could not address the press because he didn’t have a blue pass. Odunke’s community has been continuously impacted by floods and droughts and there have been years that he could only describe as “hell”. I sat in class thinking about <em>shetkaris</em> (Marathi for farmers), reminiscing back to the days when I would drive out to the countryside, just to have a fresh jowarichi <em>bhakri</em>(a type of Indian bread made of white millet) picked off the field. Shawn, presenting on the Wildlife Conservation Society, broke my nostalgia short and I realized that I’ve seen this happen before when he showed us the image below!

Farmers and Indigenous people are the new entries in the may face extinction due to climate change category. The #paddletoparis campaign says “We are all in this boat”, except this boat is the titanic and the icebergs are melting while you are on the other side, simply surviving.

Climate equity should not be a distant ideal but the fundamental basis to these negotiations. If you are reading this right now, I urge you to support the #paddletoparis movement and lend your voice to those that have none at COP21.

Conference mentioned: Moral Compass of the Paris Accord at Stake: Inter-constituency voices by Women’s Environment and Development Organisation (WEDO)