DEP Releases Climate Impacts Assessment

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) has released an updated Climate Impacts Assessment for the state of Pennsylvania.  The report is an update to the findings made in the 2009 reports entitled Pennsylvania Climate Impacts Assessment and Economic Impacts of Projected Climate Change in Pennsylvania.  These previous reports presented assessments on the impacts of climate change on various sectors including agriculture, ecosystems and fisheries, forests, energy, outdoor recreation and tourism, human health, water, insurance and the general economy.

The initial reports as well as the update were initiated by the Pennsylvania Climate Change Act, Act 70 of 2008.  The studies were conducted by a team of scientists at Pennsylvania State University.  The 2012 update, released in October 2013, “is based on a review and evaluation of pertinent scientific literature and data analyses conducted by The Pennsylvania State University team since the conclusion of the last report”.

The update found that over the past 110 years, the state has experienced long term warming, with a brief cooling period in the mid 20th century.  The models suggest that greenhouse gases are the main cause of the long term warming.  The report goes through each of the sectors mentioned above and provides an update to the 2009 findings.  Below is a list of a small number of findings from the report:

  • There is likely to be tight market situations for most agricultural products during the current decade in which extreme weather events are likely to lead to greater swings in global agricultural prices than would have been the case 10 or 20 years ago.
  • Risks related to hydrologic systems and aquatic ecosystems are significant and will pose challenges for water resource and ecosystem mangers.
  • Warming in Pennsylvania is likely to increase the demand for electricity for cooling in the summertime, and can be expected to decrease demand for heating fuels.
  • Climate impacts on Pennsylvania’s forest are likely to include species composition shifts, shifts in tree regeneration rates, greater tree stress, changes in the phenology of forest ecosystem species, changes in tree chemistry and growth rates, greater insect, disease and invasive species activity, and shifts in faunal populations.
  • A consistent finding is that the impact of climate change on human health is uncertain, but likely to be small. Research has consistently shown that warming temperatures would result in increased heat-related deaths and decreased cold-related deaths.
  • The outdoor recreation activity that will be most affected by climate change is winter recreation. Snowfall is expected to decline and winter temperatures are expected to rise. Both trends work against snow depth, which is the critical factor for snow-based recreation.

The entire 2013 report can be found here. The previous 2009 reports can be found here.

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