by Victoria Wittig, Project Coordinator, Save the Dunes

The shock of reading headlines about the crisis that climate change presents to the world is really no longer a shock. That was the case regarding the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). According to their Summary for Policymakers, limiting warming from climate change to 1.5 degrees Celsius, therefore ensuring a safe climate future, will require five steps:

A 45% decline in global emissions of CO2 from 2010 levels by 2030

Up to 85% of global electricity provided by renewables by 2050

Approximately 0% of energy produced from coal

Up to seven million square kilometers used for energy crops (a little smaller area than the continent of Australia)

Global emissions at 0% by 2050


Reading through this list, it is understandable if people think that achieving this is next to impossible, especially considering the reality of global politics and economies.

However, it was striking, and encouraging to read in other headlines that two American scientists have been awarded the Nobel prize for their work in economicsThe first, Dr. William Nordhaus, created a model that captures the interaction of Earth’s climate and the modern global economy. Seen as one of the pioneers of environmental economics, his work has enabled a close examination of the consequences of climate policy interventions that include economic change scenarios.

The second new Laureate, Dr. Paul Romer, has demonstrated how economic forces govern the willingness of firms to produce new ideas and innovations. Dr. Romer is quoted in The Guardian as saying: “Once we start to try to reduce carbon emissions, we’ll be surprised that it wasn’t as hard as we anticipated. The danger with very alarming forecasts is that it will make people feel apathetic and hopeless. One problem today is that people think protecting the environment will be so costly and so hard that they want to ignore the problem and pretend it doesn’t exist. Humans are capable of amazing accomplishments if we set our minds to it.”

Are we a part of the problem or the solution in Northwest Indiana? What indicators point the way? Here’s a wrap-up of a few recent, encouraging local headlines:

  1. NIPSCO announced in late September their intention to shutter their coal fired power plants by 2028This followed an analysis that the most viable options for their future mean moving up the retirement of their remaining coal-fired generation in the next five years and all coal within the next 10 years. The likelihood is that renewable energy sources will be the replacements, including wind, solar and battery storage technology. Considering we need 0% of energy from coal according to the leading scientists in the world, this is very encouraging local news.
  2. Another local success story comes from Michigan City Area Schools who were the recipient of the 2018 Indiana Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence in the Energy/Renewable Resources categoryThey were awarded this honor for their successful deployment of seven solar arrays that cut carbon emissions and reaps annual savings of $704,672. NWI certainly has a bright future ahead if our young minds are living through the actual, real transformation to a renewable energy economy all while they work on building the foundation for their future. Let’s keep the momentum going and ensure our local colleges and universities have the training and coursework these young minds will need to keep renewable energy up and running when they hit the work force.
  3. In fact, the state of Indiana has resources available to help more solar energy to be deployed as does the US Department of Agriculture’s “Rural Energy for America Program,” or “REAP” which provides loan guarantees for renewable energy on commercial or agricultural land. In Northwest Indiana, we do have the potential to be a part of the solution and folks from every sector have a role to play.
  4. Furthermore, Save the Dunes and partners recently completed a Climate Change Adaptation Plan that identifies means by which NWI can prepare for climate change impacts. Some of the ways we adapt are also the ways we slow the pace of change: simply by preserving intact forest and wetland ecosystems such as those held by private, state and federal land conservation managers, we are soaking up CO2 and reducing climate change.
  5. The Purdue Climate Change Research Center keeps Hoosiers informed on the latest science behind the changes that will impact Indiana. Collectively, these are strong indicators that Northwest Indiana has a network of support systems already in place to protect us from climate change.

Making changes today is what global scientists at the IPCC are calling for to avert a catastrophe. In our personal lives, we have the capacity to make a difference through the lifestyle choices that we make, and we’re all becoming well accustomed to what we can do. Here’s a short-list of tried-and-true options you have every day: reduce, reuse and recycle; improve energy efficiency at home/work/local public institutions; reduce fossil fuel consumption (i.e. drive less and use public transportation/bike/walk more); choose to eat locally grown foods; and exercise your democratic freedom by voting with your dollars and in the ballot box. Let’s take pride in the capacity we have as a region to all work together for a safe and resilient climate future. Truly the Indiana dunes, our Lake Michigan, and our very way of life depends on it. 

Written by