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Midstate county seeks input on how to address climate change

  • Rachel McDevitt

Courtesy Cumberland County

A central Pennsylvania county is asking people what actions they are willing to take to address climate change.

Cumberland County opened the survey as part of the state’s Local Climate Action Program, a statewide effort to encourage local governments to prepare for climate change. The initiative matches governments with college students and provides resources to help municipalities assess their greenhouse gas output and make a plan to reduce it.

Kirk Stoner, the county’s director of planning, said they are relying on polling from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication to measure attitudes about climate change. Their survey is focused on strategies in areas from energy efficiency to transportation to waste management.

For residents, that includes things they could do in their homes or products they buy. The county also wants to hear what businesses are doing.

“Are they seeing climate change as a problem they want to address? Are they doing a lot? Are they doing a little?” Stoner said.

Cumberland County, a warehousing and logistics hub for the region, emits the greatest share of its greenhouse gases from transportation at 39 percent, Stoner said. Residential power is the next largest with 22 percent.

Stoner said the county will use the survey responses to inform its climate action plan, which it hopes to finish this summer.

He said the plan will be mainly recommendations and stressed it will take collaboration to put the plan to work.

“I think it’s going to be a challenge when we get to the end of this to figure out what to do,” he said. “A lot of this stuff does not fall neatly into a silo that’s under any one level of government jurisdiction.”

Forty-one local governments across the state have joined the effort, including Erie County, Harrisburg, and Allentown. Six have adopted climate action plans to date.

Pennsylvania put out a statewide Climate Action Plan in 2018 and is working to update it now. Though Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has said addressing climate change is a priority, the Republican-controlled legislature has neglected to take action.

Scientists say we must decrease greenhouse gas emissions significantly in the next decade to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

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