Residents in the southern half of Pennsylvania could spend up to 103 days each year living with temperatures that exceed 90 degrees by 2100, according to the state’s updated Climate Action Plan.
The report, published by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), forecasts that without significant policy intervention, Pennsylvania’s 2050 emissions will fall far short of the administration’s 80% reduction goal and the worsening effects of climate change will trigger deadlier weather events.
“If we do not step up, not only will we not reach our goal … but the Pennsylvania of 2050 will be generating 1.2% more of emissions over 2005 [levels],” DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said Wednesday during a news conference. “That’s a lot more heat waves and a lot more flooding.”
The department said its plan focuses on ways to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity production, transportation and industrial sectors.
The state’s impending entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), is one solution, McDonnell said. The administration estimates joining the 11-state program will eliminate up to 225 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over the next decade.
Other policy shifts, such as a renewal and expansion of the state’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards or a shift to electric vehicles, will help Pennsylvania achieve its emissions reduction targets and lessen the impacts of climate change, McDonnell said.
“We need to lower greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the level we are already experiencing,” he said. “We must now move out of reactive mode on climate change.”
Critics, namely legislative Republicans, have cast doubts on the modeling the DEP uses for its climate assessments and the purported benefits of joining RGGI.
Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee Chairman Gene Yaw, R-Williamsport, is chief among those skeptical of the data and concerned about the administration’s desire to undermine the state’s position as a regional energy leader.
“The Climate Action Plan is used as justification for joining RGGI, yet participating in RGGI will cost thousands of direct and indirect Pennsylvania jobs, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by less than 1% over the next 10 years,” Yaw said in a news release. “Does that make any logical sense?”
Yaw also noted Pennsylvania’s natural gas boom helped reduce the state’s emissions 41% over the past decade and accused the DEP of turning a blind eye to the role fossil fuels play in curbing pollution overall.
“How are wind turbines and solar panels made? They don’t just fall out of the sky,” he said. “There is a manufacturing process involved with all of these efforts, a manufacturing process that uses machinery and involves the mining of rare earth elements.”
“Completely eliminating fossil fuels is not going to solve the problem of climate change,” Yaw added.
Yaw led his committee in a concurrent resolution vote against the DEP’s regulations for joining RGGI, which are under review by the attorney general.
The resolution awaits consideration in the Senate, as does an identical measure in the House. Both face likely vetoes from the governor should either reach his desk and would require support from two-thirds of the chambers to override.
The state remains on track to join RGGI in early 2022.