Two new scientific studies published this week warn that a large portion of the West Antarctica ice sheet has begun melting at a pace that appears to be unstoppable.
It’s the latest round of bad news about climate change.
Meanwhile a United Nations panel on climate change has been issuing a series of alarming reports over the past six months– urging governments around the world to act more quickly to cut greenhouse gas emissions in order to avert serious risks, including sea level rise, species extinction, and food insecurity.
When Pennsylvania voters go to the polls in November they will have a stark choice. All the Democratic candidates believe man-made climate change is real and poses significant risks, while Governor Corbett believes the issue is still a subject of debate within the scientific community.
“I think some people believe that it is clearly evident and it’s coming very, very quickly,” he said in a recent interview with StateImpact Pennsylvania. “I think there are others who are equally qualified that disagree with that. It’s a subject of debate.”
When asked whether he is aware that 97 percent of peer-reviewed studies reflect the scientific consensus that humans are causing climate change, Corbett said he is aware.
“I understand that,” he said. “But I also understand that we are only a portion of the issue here in the United States, compared to the entire world. And we have to get the entire world on with us.”Corbett pointed to the expanded use of natural gas as a way that both Pennsylvania and the United States have successfully cut carbon emissions.
Scientists are still trying to understand how methane emissions from oil and gas development contribute to climate change. Methane is the main component of natural gas, and it is 21 times more potent as heat-trapping gas, compared to carbon dioxide.
Several Corbett appointees– including his Deputy Secretary on Energy, as well as the current and former heads of the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) have publicly questioned the scientific consensus around climate change.
Current DEP Secretary Chris Abruzzo had a rocky confirmation hearing in December when he said he was unaware climate change caused environmental harm. A month later, he walked back his comments, saying there are impacts caused by man-made warming.
In separate interviews with StateImpact Pennsylvania, all of Corbett’s Democratic challengers acknowledged the threat of climate change. Most favor expanding the state’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard, which requires utilities to purchase a set amount of power from alternative sources like solar, wind and biofuels.