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Pennsylvania's Climate Reports

Background

The most recent Pennsylvania Climate Impacts Assessment Update was released in August, 2015. It warns of hotter, longer summers, more destructive storms, and more floods. The most striking aspect of the report is the prediction that just 35 years from now, the average temperature in the state will be 3° Celsius, or 5.4° Fahrenheit, warmer than it was in 2000.

That’s 2° C higher than what climate experts and policy makers say is the threshold for dangerous impacts. A global average temperature rise of 2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels is considered the tipping point for catastrophic change.

“That is a startling number,” said Dr. James Shortle, lead author on the report.

Although, state officials emphasized the report focused on science and not policy, the Wolf Administration has taken a more aggressive stance on climate change than its predecessor.

The Corbett administration spent more than a year ignoring a Pennsylvania law requiring the release of two reports about climate change.

A 2008 law known as the Pennsylvania Climate Change Act directs the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to publish the reports. One is an overall climate change impact assessment. The other is an action plan for lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

The reports were first published in 2009, and the law requires updates every three years. Both were due in 2012.

Since that deadline passed, the former head of the DEP under Corbett publicly questioned climate science, the department’s policy office attempted to suppress peer reviewed research, and the staffer charged with overseeing the climate change reports resigned out of frustration.

In December 2013, Governor Corbett’s nominee to run the DEP said in his confirmation hearing he was not aware climate change can cause harm. Corbett’s top energy adviser had also expressed skepticism about climate science.

StateImpact Pennsylvania took a closer look at this in the online series, “Pennsylvania’s Missing Climate Reports”.

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