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Climate Report on PA Shows More Threats to Health, Water and Air Quality

The roiling waters in Keswick Village during Storm Allison heading down to Cheltenham's Brookdale area

The roiling waters in Keswick Village during Storm Allison heading down to Cheltenham’s Brookdale area

According to a new report from Penn State University, dangerously high summer temperatures, more severe storms, an increased threat of some diseases carried by insects and drastic changes to agriculture and water quality are becoming facts of life for state residents.

“The scientific data is clear: climate change is happening, and there will be impacts to PA,” said lead author James Shortle, Ph.D., a professor of agricultural and environmental economics and director of the Environment and Natural Resources Institute, in a press statement from DEP.  “The effects of climate change will be felt across all parts of PA – agriculture, human health, water quality, energy, even outdoor recreation will be affected.”

The 2015 Climate Impacts Assessment makes the issue more explicit than the typical scientific report.  The report notes that by 2050, Philadelphia’s climate will be similar to current-day Richmond, VA, and Pittsburgh’s will be similar to current-day Washington, DC or Baltimore, MD.  By 2050, it is expected that PA will be 5.4 degrees warmer than it was in 2000.  The report found that PA has warmed 1.8 degrees in the past 110 years, and the trend will continue at an accelerated rate.

The report, researched with the support of a Penn State multidisciplinary team, is the second update from the DEP meeting a 2008 directive from the legislature to study potential impacts of global climate change in PA.

“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 in the release. “We must respond to this challenge, and do so in a way that strengthens PA’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 concerns raised in the study are:

  • Climate change could worsen air quality through increased pollen concentration, mold concentration, and ground-level ozone, causing longer allergy seasons, aggravating asthma, and increasing mortality among at-risk populations;
  • 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; and
  • Severe storms – strengthened by warmer temperatures – could affect reliable electric service and threaten current electricity infrastructure.

However, some changes will be positive, according to the DEP, including longer growing seasons and more tolerable temperatures for crops not currently grown in PA offer new opportunities for the state’s farmers.

See more on the report from StateImpact here.  DEP will accept comments on the study through November 4 of this year.

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  1. Tom McHugh

    Yes. Read, analyze, think and vote my friends. However be sure to avoid getting your information (misinformation) on climate change and increased flooding from denier blogs, talk radio and faux news.

  2. David Berd

    Fellow citizens, do not allow yourselves to become entrapped by climate change propaganda. Get the facts for yourself; they are available in various forms from a myriad of books to multiple web sites. Global warming, possible a significant problem in the past, has not occurred since about 1997. Climate change, which is the Sierra Club’s new fundraising name for global warming, is occurring constantly (remember the Ice Age?) is a separate subject that environmentalists are using to obfuscate the global warming question. Finally, there is no evidence that catastrophic weather events are increasing recently or that they are related to any human activity. Read, analyze, and think, my friends. Then vote.

  3. Tom McHugh

    Thank you for this important article. 97% of climate scientists, a significant majority of the public, and knowledgeable politicians are now in agreement that climate change is real and almost entirely caused by human activity, especially the burning of fossil fuels. There is no real debate on this issue. There is only the pretense of a climate change debate by skeptics and deniers that wish to keep the status quo.

    Cheltenham Township is vulnerable to flooding. A significant increase in the number of extreme rain events has already occurred in the mid-Atlantic and Northeastern region of our country. The combination of increased land development and warmer temperatures increases the possibility of flooding. The picture shown at the top of this article reminds us that 30% of Abington Township’s and nearly 100% of Jenkintown’s stormwater runoff flows into Cheltenham Township and the Tookany Creek floodplain.

    Weather is chaotic. We can not predict when the next flood will occur. Climate is the weather over an extended period of time, and our climate, like a pair of loaded dice, increases the probability of flooding. We have been lucky since Tropical Storm Lee.

    Our Commissioners, administrative staff, and interested citizens, have been working with the PA DEP and The Army Corps of Engineers, towards a solution to our repeated flooding. The solution includes design considerations of environmental and esthetic issues. Let us move the plans forward before the next “big one” hits.