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IN ‘feeling the impacts of climate change’

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Thursday, April 11, 2024   

By Enrique Saenz for Mirror Indy.
Broadcast version by Joe Ulery for Indiana News Service reporting for the Mirror Indy-Free Press Indiana-Public News Service Collaboration

Earth Month in Indianapolis has gotten off to a wet start. In just a single day, April 2, the city received about half the rainfall it usually gets the entire month.

The rain event was a high point in precipitation that followed two months of below-average rain or snow, according to the National Weather Service. The same happened in January, when snow and rainfall broke a five-month streak of below average precipitation. Before that it was a three month streak. 

The city is also experiencing some of the highest temperature averages ever. This February’s average temperature was 8.7 degrees above average, the fourth-hottest February recorded in Indianapolis. December was the seventh-warmest on record.

IU Indianapolis biogeochemist Gabriel Filippelli and other climate researchers say the precipitation and temperature patterns are evidence that the climate in Indiana is changing.

“We often think of climate change as a big global thing that only happens to polar bears, but we’re actually feeling the impacts of climate change right here in Indiana and in Indianapolis,” Filippelli said.

Filippelli is the executive director of Indiana University’s Environmental Resilience Institute and was part of the Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment, a statewide effort to understand how climate change will impact the state over the next century.

He and the other researchers found that emissions from fossil fuels will heat the world enough to alter the climate, which, in turn, will affect almost every facet of life for Hoosiers, including the weather, health, agriculture, energy use and even tourism.

More rain and higher temperatures over the last 20 years have resulted in 15% more flooding events, Filippelli said, and contributed to a 400% surge in mosquito populations here. 

Climate change is even affecting the daily commute for Indianapolis residents. 

“The weather is so variable now in springtime that (the Department of Public Works) has a really hard time getting the right paving mix to fix potholes,” Filippelli said. “This is, unfortunately, the perfect weather to make potholes on roads. The temperature doesn’t stay stable enough to be able to fix them with a proper kind of pothole mix.”

It’s because of these and other concerns that the Indianapolis Office of Sustainability is holding seven climate-focused workshops — called the Thriving Neighbors Series — at city parks to teach residents about what changes are coming and how to adapt to them.

Filippelli is leading the first workshop, Climate Change 101, on Tuesday, April 9 at the Rhodius Park Family Center on the west side.

“I try to relay the fact that climate change is here and it’s going to continue until we get smarter about reducing carbon emissions,” he said. “We have a lot of ways to mitigate climate change and adapt to it.”

Here is the full list of workshops:

  • Climate Change 101 with Gabe Filippelli of the IU Environmental Resilience Institute | 5:30-6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 9 | Rhodius Park Family Center, 1720 W. Wilkins St.

  • Eco-Therapy with Hemlock Counseling Services | 1-2 p.m. Saturday, April 13 | Washington Park Family Center, 3130 E. 30th St. | Includes a guided nature walk through the park’s trails.

  • Environmental Justice with Kheprw Institute | 11 a.m. to noon Friday, April 26 | Garfield Park Family Center, 2345 Pagoda Drive | AES Indiana will give away tree saplings at this Arbor Day celebration event.

  • Water and Rain Barrels with the Marion County Soil and Water Conservation District and the White River Alliance | 10-11 a.m. Wednesday, May 1 | Brookside Park Family Center, 3500 Brookside Parkway South Drive | Includes rain barrels for the first 10 registrants.

  • How to Compost with Indy Go Green | 6-7 p.m. Thursday, May 9 | Pride Park Family Center, 1129 Vandeman St.

  • Healthy and Sustainable Eating with Black Leaf Vegan | 10-11 a.m. Thursday, May 16 | Frederick Douglass Park Family Center, 1616 E. 25th St. | Includes food samples and a plant-based meal for registrants.

  • Home Energy Rebates with the Hoosier Environmental Council | 6-7 p.m. Wednesday, May 22 | Municipal Gardens Family Center, 1831 Lafayette Road.

The workshops are free, but registration is required. To register, head to the series website.

Enrique Saenz wrote this article for Mirror Indy.

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