A state-based re­sponse to cli­mate change

Global con­cerns chan­neled into prac­ti­cal so­lu­tions can make com­mu­ni­ties more re­silient

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Richard Lu­gar and Lee Hamil­ton Richard Lu­gar, a Repub­li­can, is a former mem­ber of the U.S. Se­nate. Lee Hamil­ton, a Demo­crat, is a former mem­ber of the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and is di­rec­tor of In­di­ana Univer­sity’s Cen­ter on Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Gov­ern

Rapid en­vi­ron­men­tal change is a sig­nif­i­cant global chal­lenge with wide-reach­ing im­pacts to na­tional se­cu­rity, busi­ness con­ti­nu­ity and global health. Even as the White House with­draws the United States from the Paris Ac­cords, the ef­fects of cli­mate change are al­ready be­ing felt to­day in our lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.

This is true even in the Amer­i­can Midwest.

Con­sider the ef­fects on our home state of In­di­ana, one of the na­tion’s top-pro­duc­ing agri­cul­tural states and a key agri­cul­tural ex­porter. Ac­cord­ing to The Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion, the ef­fects of ex­treme weather — from heat, heavy rains and flood­ing — have cost us more than $6 bil­lion since 2011.

Events like these cre­ate in­creased volatil­ity in crop yields and over­all pro­duc­tion. Mean­while, ris­ing tem­per­a­tures over the com­ing decades are pre­dicted to fur­ther jeop­ar­dize the nearly $6 bil­lion in an­nual corn and soy­bean pro­duc­tion in our re­gion.

Public health is also threat­ened. Shorter, less­in­tense win­ters have con­trib­uted to a star­tling 430 per­cent in­crease in doc­u­mented cases of Lyme dis­ease since 2001, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion. And these are just a few ex­am­ples from one state grap­pling with ad­verse changes.

While Amer­ica’s na­tional de­bate has stag­nated around what causes en­vi­ron­men­tal change and whether the United States should con­tinue to be part of global ef­forts to fight it, many states, cities and com­pa­nies are tak­ing a dif­fer­ent ap­proach.

Many have reaf­firmed their own pledges to meet Paris tar­gets. And many are also chan­nel­ing a global con­cern into lo­cal ac­tion by de­vel­op­ing prac­ti­cal so­lu­tions that make com­mu­ni­ties stronger and bet­ter equipped to re­spond to en­vi­ron­men­tal chal­lenges.

In our own state, a com­bi­na­tion of bi­par­ti­san po­lit­i­cal of­fi­cials, in­dus­try lead­ers and com­mu­nity groups have joined forces to learn how to adapt to en­vi­ron­men­tal change as it is be­ing uniquely felt in the Midwest.

Led by In­di­ana Univer­sity, the coali­tion has em­barked on a $55 mil­lion re­search ini­tia­tive called Pre­pared for En­vi­ron­men­tal Change, aimed to equip busi­ness and non­profit lead­ers, state pol­i­cy­mak­ers, lo­cal may­ors and the public with the tools to an­tic­i­pate and re­spond to en­vi­ron­men­tal change.

These tools in­clude ac­cu­rate pre­dic­tions of fu­ture en­vi­ron­men­tal changes, prac­ti­cal steps and ac­tion­able pol­icy rec­om­men­da­tions that can mit­i­gate harm­ful ef­fects, an En­vi­ron­men­tal Re­silience In­dex to help lead­ers mea­sure and im­prove the abil­ity of In­di­ana com­mu­ni­ties to re­spond to change, and ef­fec­tive strate­gies for com­mu­ni­cat­ing find­ings and rec­om­men­da­tions in ways that are both un­der­stand­able and use­ful.

En­vi­ron­men­tal re­siliency isn’t just about ris­ing sea lev­els or wild­fires on the coasts. It’s about sta­bi­liz­ing con­di­tions for our farm­ers, stop­ping the spread of dis­eases, de­fend­ing our­selves from se­ri­ous weather dis­as­ters, and cre­at­ing more liv­able towns and cities.

Ev­ery state and com­mu­nity should be hav­ing these crit­i­cal con­ver­sa­tions to de­velop in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions that are tai­lored to their dis­tinct needs and the chal­lenges they face. And in our hy­per-par­ti­san po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment where fed­eral lead­er­ship with­draws, build­ing these di­verse, in­de­pen­dent lo­cal coali­tions is all the more crit­i­cal.

States have long been called the lab­o­ra­to­ries of our democ­racy. This may be par­tic­u­larly true, and is es­pe­cially needed, when it comes to build­ing the broad coali­tions nec­es­sary to com­bat the ef­fects of en­vi­ron­men­tal change.

Of course, no sin­gle state can stop cli­mate change in its tracks, but with cre­ativ­ity, fore­sight and a cul­ture of col­lab­o­ra­tion, state and lo­cal lead­ers — even in red Amer­ica — can take mean­ing­ful steps to help their cor­ner of the planet pre­pare, adapt and pros­per.

ILLUSTRATION BY GREG GROESCH

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