Report shows climate change could change everything in Pa.

The Philadelphia Inquirer

By John Quigley

September 14, 2015

The Pennsylvania we know today is being fundamentally altered by the impacts of climate change, according to scientists and economists from Pennsylvania State University.

Their Climate Impacts Assessment Update, prepared for the Department of Environmental Protection at the direction of the General Assembly, finds that Pennsylvania has warmed 1.8 degrees in the past 110 years, and the warming will increase at an accelerated rate. By 2050, Pennsylvania will be 5.4 degrees warmer than it was in the year 2000. By 2050, Philadelphia's climate will be similar to current-day Richmond, Va. Pittsburgh will be similar to current-day Washington, D.C., or Baltimore.

This report is profoundly disturbing. Science is showing us that not only are the changes and disruptions to our state's climate significant, but they are also occurring alarmingly fast, in ways that will affect key sectors of the economy, our health, and our quality of life.

Climate change could worsen air quality - increasing pollen and 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.

Some changes will be positive. Longer growing seasons and more tolerable temperatures for crops not currently grown in Pennsylvania offer new opportunities for farmers. But 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 our current electric infrastructure.

As the former mayor of Hazleton, I know the stressors that climate change puts on communities. Extreme precipitation events that are even now punctuating the lives of Pennsylvanians will increase in frequency. And that means communities will face stormwater management problems and threats to safe drinking water. Our cities will see vulnerable segments of their populations - the elderly, the infirm, and low-income individuals - be put at significantly greater risk of death from heat waves.

As a former secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, I worry about the fundamental changes to Penn's Woods. The composition of our forests and their ecosystems are already changing, facing increased stress. Those impacts will have unquestionable effects - on our water quality, on the way we use and enjoy our forests and parks, and on significant industries like our forest-products sector and our outdoor recreation and tourism economies.

As secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection, I recognize the sources of the emissions that are causing climate change: our homes, businesses, vehicles, power plants, and our energy economy.

And as a father, I see that the Pennsylvania that my son and his children will inherent is a different one than the one I have known.

The findings of this assessment are stark. It shows that climate change changes everything. So, I encourage all Pennsylvanians to take some time to read this study, and learn about the effects to you, your families, and the state we all love.

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