Report Warns Time is Running Out to Affect Climate Change, Indiana Dawdles on Fossil Fuels

March 1, 2022

The world is running out of time to undertake the rapid cuts in greenhouse gas emissions needed to reduce the severity of multiple climate hazards, such as increased flooding and heat, according to a major new report.

But despite this and previous warnings, Indiana’s government is working to prolong the life of fossil fuels rather than to seriously decrease the state’s significant greenhouse gas output from fossil fuel emissions.

The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, written by hundreds of scientists from 67 countries assembled by the United Nations, finds that human-caused climate change will increase the amount of flooding and other expensive extreme weather events. It also will decrease the amount of food available, disrupt supply chain infrastructure and trade, increase health risks and mortality and lead to many other negative effects in North America.

“Today’s IPCC report is a netlist of human suffering and the damning indictment of fake climate leadership. With fact upon fact, this report reveals our people on the planet are getting clobbered by climate change. Nearly half of humanity is living in the danger zone,” said U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

“The world's biggest polluters are guilty of arson on our only home. It is essential to meet the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees [Celsius]. And science tells us that will require the world to cut emissions by 45% by 2030, and achieve net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050. But according to current commitments, global emissions are set to increase almost 14% over the current decade. That spells catastrophe.”

Decades of nearly unchecked greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, electricity production, industrial emissions, agriculture and other sectors of the U.S. economy have trapped heat in the atmosphere in amounts so large the planet has warmed more in the past century than at any point in the last 11,000 years.

Fossil fuels make up more than 93% of the energy consumed in Indiana, and 70% of the electricity produced in Indiana is produced by coal-fired generation.

The state of Indiana emitted 188.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions in 2018, ranking it eighth among U.S. states despite ranking 17th in population.

The trapped heat has changed the earth’s climate, resulting in a hotter, wetter Hoosier State that is costing communities many millions of dollars a year to mitigate.

The average annual temperature in Indiana has increased 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1895, increasing the chance of extreme heat. The higher temperatures are negatively affecting, among other things, Indiana’s agriculture, infrastructure and air quality.

The average annual rate of precipitation in Indiana has increased 5.6 inches compared to 1895 levels, with rain falling in large amounts in short periods of time, increasing the risk of flooding and pushing the state’s aging water infrastructure to its limits. The Indiana Finance Authority estimates it will cost $2.3 billion to replace water lines statewide and at least $815 million will be needed annually to maintain them.

Indiana is mostly spared from what are currently the worst climate change effects, but that may not be the case in the future, according to the IPCC report.

“Climate change isn't lurking around the corner waiting to pounce. It's already upon us, raining down blows on billions of people,” said Inger Andersen, executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme. “We can't keep taking these hits and treating the wounds. Soon those wounds will be too deep, too catastrophic to heal. We need to soften and slow the blows by cutting greenhouse gas emissions. But we also need to cushion the blows by picking up our efforts to adapt to climate change, which have been too weak for too long.”

Electric utilities in the state have begun the process of reducing their climate impact by retiring coal-fired power plants and adopting utility scale renewable systems. But those same utilities have often replaced coal plants with plants powered by natural gas, an energy source made up mostly of methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas at least 25 times more potent at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

Instead of working to reduce the state’s climate change impact in the long term, state lawmakers have focused on propping up the fossil fuel industry and making it more difficult for state agencies to create or defend regulations that could protect Hoosiers.

Lawmakers this year introduced bills that would prevent the state from doing business with companies that choose to become fossil fuel-free; prevent state agencies from adopting rules that are more strict than bare-minimum federal regulations; and make it more costly and time-consuming for state agencies to defend their actions. Those bills died in committee, but there are indications at least some of them may be resurrected next year.

They also pushed legislation that supports unproven “clean energy” projects in the state. Those projects would provide financial incentives to the companies that undertake them, but may never provide climate change benefits for Indiana, like carbon capture and sequestration, small modular nuclear reactors and underground pumped storage hydropower.

Legislators did pass a bill that incentivized communities for voluntarily adopting siting requirements for renewable energy projects, albeit with the incentives removed. Lawmakers said incentives would be reintroduced through other mechanisms, but have not responded to questions from the Indiana Environmental Reporter about how that would happen.

Legislative committees refused to hear a resolution that would formally acknowledge climate change and its causes, as well as bills that would establish a task force to develop a climate action plan for the state and prolong the life of net metering. The tariff allowed homeowners with residential solar systems to sell back unused generated energy to utilities at rates friendly to the homeowners.

In past legislative sessions, Indiana lawmakers have also passed a law that takes away local governments’ power to restrict the local use of natural gas and other fossil fuels or to set energy-saving or energy-producing regulations. They have also made it more difficult for energy companies to retire coal-fired power plants.

The state of Indiana, by way of Attorney General Todd Rokita, is also part of several efforts to restrict the federal government’s powers to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Rokita joined the Republican attorneys general of 11 other states in a lawsuit that challenged the Biden administration’s reintroduction of a Bush-era method for calculating the social cost of greenhouse gases in cost-benefit analyses. A federal judge in Louisiana blocked the administration from using a higher estimate for the damage that each ton of greenhouse gas pollution causes society.

Rokita also tied the state to a lawsuit heard by the U.S. Supreme Court Feb. 28 that could curtail the power of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions. A ruling on that case is expected later this year.

“As one of the worst states in the U.S. for carbon pollution, Indiana is critical to creating climate solutions,” said Wendy Bredhold, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in Indiana. “We can avoid the worsening impacts of climate change on our communities and our collective futures with cleaner air and water and lower energy costs. We can generate our own energy and take back power from monopoly utilities. We can ensure that the energy transition is an equitable one that benefits everyday Hoosiers, and not just special interests. But we need our leaders to face the facts. There’s nowhere to hide from the climate crisis — not even the halls of the State Legislature.”.

Report Warns Time is Running Out to Affect Climate Change, Indiana Dawdles on Fossil Fuels