In case you hadn’t heard, the earth is doomed. Apocalyptic assertion apart, a whole lot of high scientists from throughout the globe launched a report final month on the hazard that human-caused local weather change poses to the world.
The United Nations report referred to as it a “code purple for humanity.”
And the trigger, in response to the report, is fairly clear: Carbon dioxide is the principle driver of local weather change, together with different greenhouse gases. To show the tide for the longer term, the scientists burdened the necessity to cut back and finally remove these emissions.
However the place are these emissions coming from? That’s precisely what Greg from Indianapolis needs to know. For this installment of the Scrub Hub, we might be taking a look at how a lot of the U.S. carbon emissions come from Indiana.
To reply these questions, we’ve checked out some federal knowledge and talked with some consultants on how Indiana’s gases stack up in opposition to different states. Trace, we emit rather a lot.
The brief reply: Indiana one of many largest emitters
There are a number of sectors that emit climate-causing gases, together with transportation, trade and agriculture. One of many largest contributors is the vitality sector, which frequently is offering electrical energy for the others.
The US is method up there, second solely to China in relation to emissions. Inside the U.S., simply 10 states account for half — 51% — of the nation’s carbon dioxide that’s launched from vitality and electrical energy.
Indiana is one in every of them.
It could come as no shock that states comparable to California and Texas emit greater than Indiana. They’re enormous. However the Hoosier state emitted practically 190 million metric tons of energy-related carbon dioxide in 2018, the newest data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That is the eighth most across the country.
Scrub Hub: What causes air pollution in Indianapolis?
When you do account for population, however, the list of states that make up the top 10 for per capita energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, according to the EIA, is different. States such as California and Texas drop off while Alaska, Wyoming and Montana pop up. While they have relatively low overall emissions, their small populations make the per-person number higher.
There are only two states that are on both lists for high overall emissions as well as those per capita: Louisiana and, yep, Indiana.
“Indiana is not the most populous state, but because our electrical mix is so fossil fuel intensive, not to mention our manufacturing and transportation, we get on two bad lists at the same time,” said Gabe Filippelli, the executive director for Indiana University’s Environmental Resilience Institute.
“Much of this is in our own control,” he added, “and that’s the double whammy.”
The long answer: Indiana burns a lot of fossil fuels
As Filippelli suggested, his colleague David Konisky said it’s clear why Indiana is on the top — or bottom, depending how you look at it — when it comes to emissions.
“It’s not a mystery as to why Indiana is not keeping pace with many states across the country,” said Konisky, a professor at IU’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs who focuses on environmental policies.
“It all goes to policy and the fact that we’ve not required in the utility sector for companies to generate more electricity from renewables,” he said. “We are still much more reliant on coal here than in other parts of the country.”
He’s not wrong. In both 2019 and 2020, more coal was consumed in Indiana than all but two states in the U.S., data from the EIA shows.
Of that coal, the vast majority — more than three-quarters — goes to Indiana’s electric power sector. And coal fueled 53% of Indiana’s electricity net generation in 2020, according to the EIA.
And when it isn’t coal, it’s usually natural gas. Wind and solar accounted for less than 10% of Indiana’s electricity generation last year.
“Our electrical production profile still leans heavily on fossil fuels and that alone, when compared to other states that don’t lean heavily on fossil fuels, will score us low from the get-go,” Filippelli said. More fossil fuels means more carbon.
One way to change that, he said, is to change and update the state’s policies.
Konisky agreed, adding that many other larger states in the country — such as Illinois, New York and California — are doing just that. Such states look better on those measures because they’ve been much more serious about transitioning to cleaner sources of energy.
Even more, roughly two-thirds of states have renewable portfolio standards, which require that a certain amount of a state’s energy come from renewables. And those have been helpful, Konisky said.
“Indiana could implement something like that and enforce it,” he said. “That would force the hand of utilities to make decisions moving in that direction.”
Indiana currently is in the process of discussing and deciding its energy policy for the future. Several state leaders have said they think an all-of-the-above approach will be the right fit, which includes renewables but also keeps some fossil fuels in the mix.
Indiana’s energy future: Report praises renewables but doesn’t rule out fossil fuels
One of Indiana’s utilities has announced plans to retire all its coal plants by the end of the decade and move heavily into renewables. Others, however, are not planning to retire their coal plants for more than 15 years, or they are proposing to replace them with natural gas.
“There’s no big push from the state to move away from fossil fuels,” Konisky said. “That move is happening in Indiana, but not at the same pace as in other states.”
Better understanding both the U.S. and state’s carbon emissions is key in light of the recent United Nations climate report, Konisky said: It indicates the degree of urgency that’s needed for reducing emissions not just from energy, but from all sectors of the economy.
This is a huge issue the entire world will need to confront.
“From a U.S. standpoint, that will require everyone taking action from California to Indiana and everyone in between,” Konisky said. “But it will be very difficult for the U.S. to meet the reductions it needs if states like Indiana don’t do their fair share.”
There’s much more to learn about emissions in Indiana. Do you have more questions? Ask us! Fill out the Google Form below to submit a question to the Scrub Hub.
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Call IndyStar reporter Sarah Bowman at 317-444-6129 or email at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter and Fb: @IndyStarSarah. Join with IndyStar’s environmental reporters: Be part of The Scrub on Fb.
IndyStar’s environmental reporting challenge is made attainable by way of the beneficiant help of the nonprofit Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Belief.