Climate Change

Speaker at our Sept. 25, 2014 climate rally in the Capital Rotunda
Sister Mary Elizabeth Clark

Climate change is the lens through which we view much of our work.

As the state lead of the nationally coordinated Climate Action Campaign, we work to enhance efforts at the federal level to limit industrial carbon pollution, a potent contributor to climate change with harmful impacts that extend to human health issues such as asthma, lung, and heart disease. The Campaign is also pressing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue strong standards to limit carbon pollution from both existing and not-yet-built power plants.

Maps of Pennsylvania, adapted from the Union of Concerned Scientists, that represent the projected number of days over 90 degrees Fahrenheit that will be experienced annually as the century progresses

Our winters are four degrees warmer than they were in 1970.

Climate change isn't just about melting ice caps, rising sea levels and polar bears facing extinction in places you might never visit. Take a look around. Right here at home climate change is damaging Pennsylvania's quality of life, destroying our economy and injuring our health.

Lake Erie is predicted to lose most of its winter ice cover. Up to 15 percent of the lake's surface area could disappear by the end of the century because of increased evaporation. That will significantly alter weather patterns across all of Pennsylvania.

If you ski or participate in other winter recreational sports you might have to start traveling out of state. If you fish you might have a hard time finding coldwater trout. If you garden or farm you probably know that most of Pennsylvania is now in hardiness zone six and some parts are in zone seven. (We used to be split between zones five and six.)

Economic losses are expected to increase.

Our $1.6 billion fishing, hunting, ski, sugar maple and tourism industries are at risk. Dairy farming, one of our largest industries, is predicted to lose up to 20 percent of its production by 2100. Valuable black cherry lumber stock is being hurt. The concord grape industry in the Erie area is predicted to suffer and apple production in Adams and other counties could be cut by as much as half.

Our health is at stake.

Children and elderly people are particularly vulnerable to poor air quality. Rising temperatures lead to higher levels of smog and soot. A fourfold increase in ozone action days is expected by the end of the century.

Without change, many more people will suffer from asthma and other respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses and deaths.

No offense to Alabama or Georgia.

But do we want their climate? If we don't change our ways, we will have similar heat and humidity, which will result in increases in populations of the insects that like to live in those states. Philadelphia will experience temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 80 days every year, Pittsburgh will get about 65, Erie will get almost 50, Harrisburg about 75, Scranton and Allentown about 70 and State College about 65.

We contribute one percent of all heat-trapping gases.

Pennsylvania produces more heat-trapping gases than 101 countries combined and more heat-trapping gases than 47 states -- only California and Texas produce more. We have to do our part to reduce our use of energy made by old outdated coal- and oil-fired power plants, and to call on our leaders for major changes in industry and government.

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