Climate Change Survey Highlights Hoosier Concern

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A new statewide survey suggests climate change is a growing concern among Hoosiers, and the majority would like to see increased efforts to address its impact. The survey is part of one of Indiana University’s Grand Challenges: the $55 million Prepared for Environmental Change effort.

The main takeaways seem to paint a clear picture. Researchers say 80 percent of respondents believe climate change is happening to either a great or some extent, and 75 percent believe it will hurt Indiana’s economy. A majority of respondents also showed concern about increased flooding, drought and hotter summers as a result of climate change impacting Indiana communities and agriculture.

Indiana University Environmental Resilience Institute Assistant Director of Policy and Implementation Janet McCabe says the results also shed a light on public perception of the science of climate change.

“One of the things that I noticed specifically was the question about do you think there is scientific agreement about climate change? Because you hear that a lot,” says McCabe. “A significant number of people think that there is a lot of debate among the scientists, and there really isn’t, including among the scientists here in Indiana.”

In addition to the public health risks for humans and animals, researchers tend to agree that there is an undeniable impact on the economy. During a May interview on Inside INdiana Business With Gerry Dick, McCabe outlined the bottom-line costs.

“Since 2011, extreme weather has cost the state of Indiana $6 billion, already, and these changes are predicted to increase as the temperatures continue to warm,” McCabe said. “That doesn’t mean we can’t do things to be ready and try to mitigate these damages, but we’re already seeing them happen, and a lot of the people who responded to the survey agreed with that.”

IU’s Prepared for Environmental Change Grand Challenge aims to address the issues, thanks to the work of more than 120 researchers, including 11 Environmental Resilience Institute fellow. They aim to predict the short- and long-term impact of climate change, identify best practices for adaptation and work with policymakers and community leaders to make sure they have the information they need to make informed decisions on the issue.

McCabe says one of the main goals is public education.

“We need good accurate information about what’s happening to our climate, we need solutions and answers and things we can do, especially for local governments who are really on the front lines of dealing with these changes, and we need to be able to communicate all of these things effectively.”

The survey also looked at how political affiliation coincides with views on climate change. There are some differences – the study suggests 41 percent of Republicans believe there is scientific uncertainty about climate change, while only 17 percent of Democrats feel that way – but the majority of respondents in both parties support measures to strengthen Indiana’s preparedness for the issue.

McCabe says a local focus is also key to getting Hoosiers engaged.

“It’s fine to hear about what’s happening in Miami or to the coral reefs, and we care about those things deeply,” says McCabe, “but I think more important to people is information produced by scientists they trust here in Indiana about their communities.”

In all, McCabe says she hopes the survey (you can see results by clicking here) will help Hoosiers “connect the dots” when it comes to how climate change affects their personal and professional lives.

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