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Warming Climate Puts PA Summer Recreation at Risk

Tick-borne diseases are increasing as climate change increases summer temperatures. (Kaldari[CC0]/Wikimedia Commons)
Tick-borne diseases are increasing as climate change increases summer temperatures. (Kaldari[CC0]/Wikimedia Commons)
August 15, 2018

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Climate change already is affecting summers here in Pennsylvania and across the country, according to a new report.

The National Wildlife Federation report said rising temperatures, droughts and severe weather all are effects of climate change, contributing to crop loss, flash floods and wildfires. According to Rob Altenburg, director of the Energy Center at the environmental group PennFuture, the warming climate in the Keystone State poses serious threats to everything from farming to tourism and recreation.

"We'll also see the risk of increase in disease vectors," he said, "whether it's Lyme disease, West Nile virus or diseases resultant to that, and all of that will have public health impacts."

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2004 and 2016, the incidence of tick-borne diseases nationwide more than doubled.

Doug Inkley, former senior scientist for the National Wildlife Federation, pointed out that as the second-biggest natural-gas-producing state, Pennsylvania also is a major source of climate-changing methane emissions.

"There are rules and regulations that can be implemented," he said. "We really need to do this, because methane is a very powerful gas for causing climate change. It absorbs a lot of energy and holds it in around the earth, causing the earth to warm up."

Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection imposed stricter limits on methane emissions from new oil and gas infrastructure. However, Altenburg said there's still a long way to go to bring methane emissions under control.

"What we still need to do is look at the 7,000-plus existing wells and make sure that their control technology is adequate," he said.

Among the report's other recommendations are cutting carbon emissions from power plants and transportation, and enacting a nationwide price on carbon pollution.

The "Safeguarding Summer" report is online at nwf.org/summer.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA