Warmer, wetter weather will alter Indiana’s forests, urban green spaces

Indiana’s forests and urban green infrastructure could look dramatically different over the next century due to warmer temperatures and changed precipitation patterns brought on by climate change, according to the latest two reports by the Purdue University-based Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment.

The reports – Indiana’s Future Forests and Maintaining Indiana’s Green Spaces – were released during a community briefing May 15 at St. Thomas Lutheran Church Heritage Hall in Bloomington.

“We are grateful to our authors and partners, including the many stakeholders who provided input for these reports” said Jeff Dukes, director of the Purdue Climate Change Research Center. “Our goal is to provide information that will spark new conversations among professionals, decision-makers and the public.”

Richard Phillips, associate professor of biology at Indiana University and lead author of the forest report, said predicted changes in climate – including warmer, wetter springs followed by hotter, drier summers, might increase the number of tree species growing in the state but could also deter some species currently growing here. He added that changes in the makeup of the state’s forests will depend largely on what action Hoosiers take now to alleviate future climate change.

“The forest products industry in the state of Indiana generates about $7.5 billion annually so you can imagine there’s a lot of concern about changes in species composition that are likely to occur,” Phillips said.

According to the report, habitat suitability is expected to increase for 43 to 52 percent of tree species currently grown in Indiana and decrease for 17 to 29 percent of species currently grown here. In addition, the combination of warmer summer temperatures and drier soils will likely decrease tree growth and timber production. The number of days with frozen soil is projected to drop by half or two-thirds by late century, which would dramatically shrink the timeframe for harvesting trees without environmental disturbance or damage.

Heather Reynolds, associate professor of biology at Indiana University, said effective planning is vital to help mitigate the worst effects of climate change on the state’s urban greenspaces – including parks, gardens and wooded areas.

“These greenspaces constitute infrastructure – providing communities with many ecosystem benefits,” she said. “From streetscapes to rooftops, green infrastructure helps to control floods, purify air and water, moderate air temperature, store carbon, control pests, provide fresh foods, and offer recreational, cultural, education and ecotourism opportunities.”

A video recap of the community briefing on the forest and urban greenspaces reports is now available at https://youtu.be/94Vc61BiFdQ.

The Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment (IN CCIA) has compiled the latest scientific research into a series of easily understandable reports about climate change impacts in nine topic areas: climate, water resources, health, energy, forest and urban ecosystems, aquatic ecosystems, tourism and recreation, agriculture and infrastructure. The assessment team consists of more than 100 experts from Purdue and other Indiana institutions.

The IN CCIA has now released four reports. All are available on the IN CCIA website at http://indianaclimate.org. For more information about the IN CCIA, go to the website or follow on social media at @PurdueCCRC, #ClimateChange, #INCCIA.


Climate change poses health risks for all Hoosiers

Over the coming decades, higher temperatures, more extreme weather events and reduced air quality due to climate change in Indiana will likely pose significant health risks for all Hoosiers – and especially children, the elderly, people with chronic health conditions and low-income families – according to the latest report from the Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment (IN CCIA) based at Purdue University.

“Children typically spend more time outdoors, exposing them to heat, and their bodies are physiologically more susceptible to the effects of heat than adults,” the report reads. “The elderly are likely to have more chronic health issues – such as respiratory conditions, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases – than younger Hoosiers. They also often live alone, have fixed incomes and may lack the support systems to help them cope with extreme heat.”

The report, Hoosiers’ Health in a Changing Climate,” was released Thursday (April 5) in a community briefing at Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital in Indianapolis. It is available at http://indianaclimate.org.

“The Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment will prove to be a powerful resource for public health practitioners, teaching professionals, students and advocates statewide as they seek not only to stay informed about the impact of climate change on human and community health, but also to contribute to critical adaptation strategies,” said Jerry King, executive director of the Indiana Public Health Association.

Jeff Dukes, director of the Purdue Climate Change Research Center, said that while some segments of the population face greater health risks than others, all Indiana residents will be affected by changing climate conditions.

“As Midwesterners, we know that hot, humid weather can be dangerous and even deadly,” he said. “Together, heat and humidity make it difficult for the body to keep cool, increasing the risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.”

Among the key findings of the report:

* Injuries and deaths caused by extreme heat are projected to increase, while injuries and deaths caused by extreme cold are projected to decrease. Overall, the number of temperature-related deaths in Indiana is expected to increase, and potentially even double by mid-century.

* Indiana’s allergy season is projected to lengthen by a month by mid-century due to a longer growing season.

* In the past 30 years, the mosquito population in Indianapolis has increased by 500 percent. Greater rainfall and warmer temperatures are expected to continue this trend and will provide living conditions for the more “tropical” mosquitoes that carry diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and Zika.

Gabriel Filippelli, director of the Center for Urban Health at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and the lead author of the report, said the health impacts of climate change could be especially severe in urban areas, especially among those living near or below the poverty line. He noted that low-income neighborhoods are often located in areas with higher environmental pollution and greater exposure to extreme weather events, such as flooding, while often lacking access to affordable health care.

“Hot summer temperatures will be compounded in cities and we can expect serious issues with urban low-income households that might not have access to adequate air conditioning, and the elderly, whose physical systems are much more susceptible to stress,” he said. “Climate-aware health-care systems, waterway infrastructure and urban planning will all need to be developed and implemented in the coming decades to reduce the negative health effects of climate change in Indiana.”

The Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment, based at Purdue University, has compiled the latest scientific research into a series of easily understandable reports about climate change impacts in nine topic areas: climate, health, water resources, energy, forest and urban ecosystems, aquatic ecosystems, tourism and recreation, agriculture and infrastructure. Each report is drafted by a working group of subject-matter experts from Purdue and other Indiana institutions.

The first report in the series, Indiana’s Past and Future Climate, addressing historical patterns and future projections for climate change in the state, was released March 1. It is available at http://indianaclimate.org.

For more information about the Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment, including a full media packet with publication-ready images, visit the homepage at http://indianaclimate.org. Follow on social media via @PurdueCCRC, #ClimateChange, #INCCIA.

Gender Mainstreaming into a Slow and Polluted Stream?

By: Bi Zhao

In a highly technical, economically-driven process like the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), how do social dimensions, such as human rights, gender equality, find their entries into the dialogue? With this question in mind, I came to my first ever UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP23) in Bonn, Germany in November 2017. My research is focused on gender related issues in climate change. Therefore, besides following the negotiations among the national delegates, I also attended the daily caucus at the Women and Gender Constituency (WGC) at UNFCCC, the various gender/human rights related side events, and I interviewed experts and practitioners from different women’s groups.

The narrative of gender equality is under the backdrop of integrating human rights into climate change and climate policies at the UNFCCC. Overall, the negotiations related to human rights are still moving forward very slowly. The discussions are not yet at a level of details that would create space to include proposals related to the integration of rights principles throughout the implementation of the Paris Agreement. For the most part, the discussions are still addressing overarching principles and structure. By the end of the first week at COP23, the atmosphere at the WGC caucus was gloomed by the fact that the Parties are moving very slowly in finalizing the text of the Gender Action Plan, which is a concrete plan of integrating gender into all policy making. Some representatives of women groups at the WGC commented that gender related texts are often suffered as casualties in the closed-door negotiations.

In contrast to the slow negotiation among the national delegates, women and gender groups around the world have already been involved in various advocacy and practices of gender-responsive policies at the grass-root level. Lisa Goldner from GenderCC told me about their project, Gender into Urban Climate Change Initiative, which tries to find relevant entry points for gender-related climate policy in urban settings. Usha Nair from India explained how UNFCCC COP enabled her organization, All India Women’s Conference, to form partnerships with other groups, especially those from the global north, and bring the practical climate policy and adaptation strategies back home to implement at the local level. Gotelind Alber, one of the co-founders of the WGC and the key person brought indigenous people to UNFCCC, told me that, throughout the years, the gender related side events at the annual COP meetings have moved from simply raising awareness, to showcasing a deeper understanding of the integration of gender in climate change, such as national policy implementation.

Nevertheless, even with such robust national and local level implementation of gender-related climate change policies, the advocacy groups still express their concerns about the challenges for women at the UNFCCC process. For example, the stereotype of women being vulnerable may fit in the discussion of climate change adaptation, but such stereotyping does not assume women as agents of change, and thus they remain rather irrelevant in the discussion of mitigation. Furthermore, the women and groups I talked to expressed frustration that the current narrative or discourse is still highly masculine, and that many people still fail to see the linkages between women and climate change. They view such dominate normative structure as the root cause for the difficulty of mainstreaming women and gender concerns. While at the same time, they are reflecting on the question: do women want to be mainstreamed into such an already “polluted stream” (referring to the male-dominate norm)?

By the time I came home, news came that the Gender Action Plan was adopted by the COP. Adopted text is always good news. Yet how exactly the plan is going to be followed through and carried out remains a question for all.

About the author: Bi Zhao is a 6th year PhD student in the Department of Political Science at Purdue University. Bi’s research focuses on the collaboration of international NGOs at intergovernmental organizations.



Impact of Climate Change and Economic Prosperity

By: Sushant Mehan and Sarah Daly

Hurricane Harvey was one of the most expensive storms in U.S. history and the greatest rainfall event ever measured in this country. In a lot of places, it was a 1 in 25,000-year storm. Hurricane Irma ultimately led to over 100 fatalities and extensive economic damage. It is widely believed that Hurricane Irma was caused by higher than average ocean temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean this year.  Warmer ocean temperatures can increase atmospheric temperatures, feed storms, and ultimately increase hurricane intensity.

At its current rate, global climate will lead to the rapid collapse of Greenland and the West Antarctic ice sheets which could lead to rising sea levels of twelve feet or more.  As a consequence, major coastal cities will be at an increased risk for flooding. Additionally, projected shifts in the Atlantic Golf Stream would make Alaska’s climate more similar to that of Europe’s (IPCC, 2007, Stern, 2007). Additionally, global violent crime rates are projected to increase 0.88% per 1°C (Hsiang, 2017). Global annual mortality rates are projected to increase ~5.4 deaths per 100,000 persons per 1°C increase (Hsiang, 2017).

Global climate change will not only negatively affect natural resources, but it will jeopardize the world’s economy. The combined market value of market and nonmarket damage from analyzed sectors (agriculture, crime, coastal storms, energy, human mortality, and labor) increases quadratically with global mean temperature, costing roughly 1.2% of global GDP (gross domestic product) per 1 °C increase (Hsiang, 2017). The worst impact will be felt by third world countries. By the end of the 21st century, the poorest third of countries are projected to experience damage between 2 and 20% of their country’s income (90% chance) under business as usual emissions (Hsiang, 2017).

Despite increases in non-conventional fossil fuel use and improved drilling and reserve location technology, fossil fuel reserves are limited. Current projections estimate that we will reach peak oil reserves by 2044 assuming reserves of 3.3 trillion barrels and a production growth rate of 2% (US DOE). By current estimates, oil will be depleted in 113 years, natural gas in 52 years, and oil in 50 years, and uranium in 230 years (Scientific American, 2009).

To mitigate climate change, the global economy will have to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; this will involve changes in production patterns, lifestyles, and underlying supply chains. 85% of U.S. energy is from fossil fuels, 8.5% nuclear, and 10% renewable energy (USA EIA). It is projected that by 2040, 80% of our energy will still come from fossil fuels. Despite dependence on fossil fuels, there are efforts being made to promote the use of cleaner fuels.

For example, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Sunshot initiative aims to reduce the price of solar energy by 7% from 2010-2020, so that by 2050, 27% of U.S. energy demand is met by solar technologies. There may be over 100 GW of geothermal electric capacity in the continental U.S. which would account for 10% of U.S. electricity capacity (US DOE, 2016). Geothermal plants emit twelve times less CO2 per unit of electricity than the average U.S. coal power plant (Geothermal energy Assoc., 2012). The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided up to $364 million in new funding for geothermal research, development, demonstration, and deployment (US DOE, 2012). 2% of U.S. electricity was from wind in 2015, but the capacity is increasing rapidly (EIA, 2016), and could provide an annual 689,000 TWh of electricity to the U.S. The national consumption is 3,700 TWh. Wind energy could provide an $14,000 annual income to farmers of a 250-acre farm (AWEA, 2009). In addition, it avoids 96 million metric tons of CO­2 and reduces water by 37 billion gallons (AWEA, 2014).

We cannot deny the fact that the changing climate dynamics is adversely affecting the planet Earth. There have been efforts at both national and international levels to reduce the impact of climate change.  However, there needs to be an even more radical change; the solution is to shift to cleaner sources of energy. Researchers need to bring in more effective and productive system to reduce GHGs emission by promoting harmony among the different nations in the world.

About the authors:  Sushant Mehan and Sarah Daly are Ph.D. candidates in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Purdue University.


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 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.