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Greater Lafayette residents searched for ‘climate change’ in 2022 more than anywhere in the country

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Greater Lafayette residents searched for “climate change” online more than any other region in the country in 2022, according to Google. (Photo taken from Google Year in Search)

Greater Lafayette residents searched for “climate change” online more than any other region in the country in 2022, according to Google. The result came as a surprise for both local officials and activists.

According to a Google spokesperson, the Greater Lafayette area had the highest percentage of searches for climate change compared with anywhere else in the U.S. That means the region didn’t have the highest volume of searches for the term — but the highest number of searches for climate change relative to overall searches in the area.

West Lafayette high school student Rahul Durai works with the group Confront the Climate Crisis, which advocates for climate legislation at the Statehouse. He said the search results should be a point of pride.

“This shows that people in our community care about climate change,” he said. “This shows that climate action is a priority for our community.”

Durai speculated that the high interest in climate change search results could be driven by the combined efforts of Purdue University’s Institute for a Sustainable Future, the work of Confront the Climate Crisis, and a new regional climate action plan.

That theory is shared by Amy Krzton-Presson, the watershed coordinator for the Wabash River Enhancement Corporation. She previously worked on the region's climate plan as a county employee.

“I don’t know what’s actually happening on Google, but as this is a part of the current events of our community, I imagine people would want to learn more about it,” she said.

Krzton-Presson said part of what makes the Google search results surprising is that people in so many areas are taking action around climate change.

“It’s kind of rewarding to see that so many people are trying to learn more about it,” she said. “But I was kind of shocked because there are a lot of communities that are working really hard on this as well.”

More searches for “climate change” don’t necessarily mean people support taking action on the issue. But Durai says the spike in interest shows that both state and local officials who represent the area should be paying attention.

That’s particularly important for Durai after climate legislation failed to move forward in the Statehouse last year. He said Sen. Shelli Yoder (D-Bloomington) is expected to introduce a similar bill during the 2023 session.

“This time around, there has been less publicity than there was a year ago,” he said. “That’s because we’re not doing as many public events. The behind-the-scenes work has been a bit tough.”

Locally, the city of West Lafayette approved the region’s climate action plan earlier this month. Lafayette approved the plan on Monday.

During West Lafayette’s council meeting last week, city utility director Dave Henderson brought up the Google statistic as he introduced the Greater Lafayette Climate Action Plan for approval.

“I don’t know the metrics,” he said. “But climate change rose to the top in the Greater Lafayette area. I think that says something.”