ACCF Review of Draft Pennsylvania Climate Impact Assessment

Under the Pennsylvania Climate Change Act (Act 70 of 2008), the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is required to provide an assessment of the impact of global climate change on the state.  Section 3 of Act 70 requires that the DEP report address the impact of climate change on Pennsylvania’s climate, human health, economy and management of economic risk, forests, wildlife, fisheries, recreation, agriculture and tourism as well as any significant uncertainties about the impact of climate change. In addition, Section 3 of the Act requires the DEP to report on opportunities and barriers to their realization created by the need for alternative sources of energy, climate related technologies, services and strategies, carbon sequestration technologies, capture and utilization of fugitive greenhouse gas emissions and other mitigation strategies. Section 3 further notes that the DEP report should reflect the diversity of views within the scientific community.

The purpose of this brief paper is to address the question of whether or not the DEP’s March 31, 2009 draft report, “Pennsylvania Climate Impact Assessment” (PCIA), adequately reflects diverse views on several key climate change issues facing Pennsylvania policymakers. Time constraints and the length and complexity of the PCIA report preclude a detailed review of the analysis but the absence of reference to climate science or impacts on various individual sectors should not be construed as acceptance of the study’s findings. However, a  review of the PCIA report suggests that it falls short  of the goal of reflecting a diversity of views in several areas including: (1) economic impacts of GHG emission caps and reduced energy use in Pennsylvania; (2) role of renewable energy; (3) possible expansion of the  role of nuclear power for electricity generation; (4) carbon sequestration opportunities for the state; (5) impact of climate change possibilities on the insurance industry; and (6) impact on agricultural output and food prices. The report also fails to put Pennsylvania’s carbon emissions in a global perspective, thereby making it difficult for policymakers to understand the costs and benefits to the state and to the environment of possible mandatory GHG reduction policies in the state.

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