Poll: Climate change causing problems for significant number of Pennsylvanians

  • Amy Sisk
Sandy left more than 1.3 million Pennsylvanians in the dark

Scientists have been studying the link between climate change and extreme weather events such as Hurricane Sandy, which left more than 1.3 million Pennsylvanians in the dark in 2012. 

Across Pennsylvania, four in 10 registered voters say they have personally experienced problems related to climate change, according to a recent poll from StateImpact Pennsylvania and Franklin & Marshall College.

Dealing with extreme weather is a common theme among Pennsylvanians who responded that they believe climate change is affecting them. Some have had to cancel vacations due to hurricanes, while others have experienced flooding in their basements.

For Carol Gingrich of Bushkill, a town in the Pocono mountains along the New Jersey border, it’s the seemingly nonstop storms.

“We have gone through four nor’easters just this winter,” she said. “Now, it’s not unusual to have a nor’easter come onto the East Coast like this. But four pretty much back to back, and one really devastated the area, is pretty intense.”

She said the first storm knocked out power for a week, forcing her and her 90-year-old mother to stay in a hotel an hour away that had electricity.

Scientists have not specifically linked this year’s nor’easters to climate change. More and more, scientists are researching whether to attribute climate change as the cause of an individual storm. But Gingrich’s comments and those of others in the poll echo the consensus of leading climate experts, that climate change is exacerbating extreme weather-related events across the globe, ranging from heat waves to wildfires to heavy rainfall.

Sharon Tapp, a lifelong resident of York, drew a link between climate change and intense bouts of rain in her area. Sometimes, water would flood her home.

“It started becoming an issue I would think about 10 years ago, and it was happening fairly frequently,” she said. “I ended up then spending some money and some time getting some waterproofing done in my basement, and for the last two years I haven’t had any issues.”

While not all poll respondents said they personally have experienced problems related to climate change, 62 percent said they believe it is causing problems, somewhere in the world, right now.

Berwood Yost, director of F&M’s Center for Opinion Research, said the poll shows Democrats and independents are much more likely than Republicans to believe climate change is happening, and that the state should do more to address it. Still, 53 percent of Republicans responded they believe climate change is causing problems now or will in the future.

“It’s real. There are partisan differences but, for the most part, people expect something to happen,” Yost said. “They want to see government do something about it.”

Two-thirds of overall respondents said they would “definitely” or “probably” like the state government to take further action to address problems associated with climate change.