Pa. climate scientist says state, country should take the lead on solutions

  • Rachel McDevitt

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change calls for immediate and large-scale changes to keep global temperatures from rising to a disastrous level.

The IPCC report said it is “unequivocal” that human activity has warmed the planet, but people can limit warming this century–if they act quickly.

Michael Mann, Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State, said Pennsylvania is already seeing some effects from climate change, such as intense storms and flooding.

But he noted, the state will also feel impacts from other parts of the world that produce food and goods.

“When a region like California suffers, we all suffer,” Mann told WITF’s Smart Talk. “We live in an interconnected country and an interconnected world.”

Mann said lawmakers at all levels should provide incentives to help transition away from fossil fuels to cleaner sources of energy.

Moves away from fossil fuels are sparking controversy in Pennsylvania, which produces more natural gas than any state except Texas, and where many communities rely on fossil fuel jobs.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposal to join a regional cap-and-trade program that targets power plant emissions has been met with fierce opposition from energy sector advocates, coal companies, Republican lawmakers and some labor unions.

Pennsylvania’s legislature has failed to act on climate change over the last decade.

Republican state lawmakers who control environmental legislation have pointed to other countries whose emissions and use of coal are still growing as a reason to continue fossil fuel use here.

Mann said China is emitting more than the U.S. now.

“But we have been an industrial nation for more than two centuries. In fact, fossil fuels started here in Pennsylvania. It’s where we discovered oil, the state was built on coal,” he said.

The U.S. is the largest source of emissions historically. Mann said it now has the chance to be a leader on climate and help developing countries “leap-frog” the fossil fuel stage of industrialization.

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