Pennsylvania this week quietly released an updated report on what impact future climate change may have on the state, about 18 months after it was due.
The Pennsylvania Climate Impacts Assessment Update was posted to an open database, but state officials issued no news release.
The report paints a mixed picture of possible impacts, with many uncertainties for the time frame after 2050.
Marc McDill, a Penn State University forestry expert who worked on the report, said the evidence is “very, very strong” that Pennsylvania's climate is going to change significantly. He said that by 2050, the climate here will be more like Virginia's, and by 2100, similar to what Georgia's is now.
For forests, the biggest danger is from insects and invasive species, McDill said: “There's a lot of evidence that warmer climate will make insect problems more severe.”
But McDill noted that visible changes are just beginning. The future “could be a lot worse, or it could be less bad” than the report suggests, he said.
The report says greenhouse gases from humans are mostly to blame for temperatures that already have climbed since about 1950. It predicts still more temperature increases but uncertainly over rainfall. The temperature changes could have a significant impact on Pennsylvania's wildlife, rivers, lakes, and aquatic ecosystems, but the economic impact is likely to be focused on certain industries, with a small effect on the overall economy and to public health.
For example, more people may die from heat waves, but fewer will die from extreme cold. There may be more extreme weather in different seasons, including droughts and floods.
Christina Simeone, chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Climate Change Advisory Committee, said the delay in releasing the report and the lack of a news release are part of a pattern. She is with the environmental group Penn Future.
“That suggests this administration does not believe that climate change exists,” Simeone said of Corbett's team, despite overwhelming consensus from top scientists around the world who say they are about as certain that global warming is a real, man-made threat as they are that cigarettes kill.
Patrick Henderson, Gov. Tom Corbett's energy executive, wrote in an email that ``sometimes DEP issues releases, sometimes not. Sometimes the press office is just overloaded with other work.''
Simeone agreed that there are uncertainties over the impact on Pennsylvania but said government should help the people and industries that will be most affected find ways to adapt.
“There's going to be winners and losers in climate change,” she said.