Reducing emissions to reduce global warming is important. However, even if all emissions were stopped tomorrow the temperature would still rise and change the environment worldwide. My work this summer focuses on how prepared Indiana laws are to deal with the coming changes and what best practices will help reduce the damage going forward.
Beyond getting warmer, Indiana will also be getting wetter. Part of this is due to future winters bringing more rain and less snow. But Indiana springs will be far rainier in the past, something that this year is bringing attention to. When rain hits cities, some of it gets absorbed into the groundwater. The abundance of roads and other impervious surfaces means that much of it is not absorbed. This water runs over roads and lawns until it reaches storm drains which places the water into the sewer system. If it rains too much (and that can be as little as a quarter of an inch in Indianapolis), then the sewer will overflow and dump unfiltered sewage into the state’s waterways. This happens over 100 days a year in some of Indiana’s largest cities. More rain concentrated on fewer days will mean more sewer overflows in the future, making an existing problem even worse. This will also lead to more runoff from fertilizers on fields and lawns, creating ever-larger algae blooms that can destroy freshwater ecosystems.
On land, ecosystems will shift north to move with the changing temperatures. Theoretically Indiana could preserve most of its species if they just had new, northern habitats to move into and ways to reach them. Unfortunately, Indiana’s protected lands are splintered in the southern hills. There are also too few protected areas to form new ecosystems in the center of the state, keeping southern flora and fauna from moving north. Roads are also a major barrier to animal migration: for some species of turtles, crossing a busy road comes with a 98% chance of death. A full 20% of America’s land turtles are killed every year on the roads. At least thirty-eight states have taken steps to prevent these deaths by constructing wildlife overpasses and underpasses. Indiana has refused to do so.