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Pa. Climate Impacts Assessment Report shows threats to human health, water and air quality
Pennsylvanians should prepare for dangerously high summer temperatures and more severe storms, increased threat of certain diseases carried by insects, and drastic changes to agriculture and water quality, according to a new report on the impact of climate change from Penn State University. The report was authored by Dr. James Shortle with assistance from a multidisciplinary team of colleagues at Penn State.

The Pennsylvania Climate Change Act (PCCA) (Act 70), enacted by the General Assembly in 2008, directed Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to conduct a study of the potential impacts of global climate change on Pennsylvania over the next century. This report is the second update to the original report published in 2009.

“The scientific data is clear: climate change is happening, and there will be impacts to Pennsylvania,” said Dr. James Shortle, lead author of the report. “The effects of climate change will be felt across all parts of Pennsylvania – agriculture, human health, water quality, energy, even outdoor recreation will be affected.”

The 2015 Climate Impacts Assessment report found that Pennsylvania has warmed 1°C (1.8°F) in the past 110 years, and will increase at an accelerated rate. By 2050, it is expected that Pennsylvania will be 3°C (5.4°F) warmer than it was in the year 2000. The report notes that by 2050, Philadelphia’s climate will be similar to current-day Richmond, Va., and Pittsburgh will be similar to current-day Washington, DC or Baltimore.

“This report shows that climate change is reality and it will get worse, and it will affect key sectors of the economy, our health, and our quality of life,” said DEP Secretary John Quigley. “We must respond to this challenge, and do so in a way that strengthens Pennsylvania’s economy and improves the environment we live in. The entire state will experience the effects, and we must all take note of the consequences of our changing climate as detailed by Dr. Shortle and his colleagues.”

Some key takeaways from the report include:

  • Climate change could worsen air quality: increasing pollen concentration, mold concentration, and ground-level ozone, causing longer allergy seasons, aggravating asthma, and increasing mortality among at-risk populations.
  • Vector-borne diseases like West Nile virus and Lyme disease could increase due to more favorable conditions for mosquitoes and deer ticks.
  • Increased precipitation in many parts of the state could lead to higher flood risks and threaten safe drinking water supplies.
  • Warmer temperatures will bring more favorable conditions for agricultural pests like weeds and insects.
  • Severe storms – strengthened by warmer temperatures – could affect reliable electric service and threaten current electric infrastructure.
  • Some changes will be positive: longer growing seasons and more tolerable temperatures for crops not currently grown in Pennsylvania offer new opportunities for farmers.

“I thank Dr. Shortle and his colleagues for their diligent and comprehensive efforts to provide the public and decision-makers with an understanding of the scientific and human impact of our changing climate,” Governor Tom Wolf said.

DEP will accept comments on the 2015 Climate Change Impacts Assessment Update through November 4, 2015. Comments submitted by facsimile will not be accepted. All comments, including comments submitted by electronic mail must include the originator’s name and address. Commentators are encouraged to submit comments using the Department’s online eComment tool at www.ahs.dep.pa.gov/eComment. Written comments should be submitted to Department of Environmental Protection, Policy Office, Rachel Carson State Office Building, P.O. Box 2063, Harrisburg, PA 17105-2063, or by email to ecomment@pa.gov..

The full report can be found here.


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September 9, 2015

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