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​Climate Change Impacts

Flooding, ticks, and agriculture

Pennsylvanians will be faced with worsened air quality, increased damage from flooding, agricultural losses, and expansion of vector-borne diseases like Lyme Disease due to climate change.

Section 3 of the Pennsylvania Climate Change Act (Act 70 of 2008) requires DEP to update and publish a report of the potential impact of climate change in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania every three years. This report provides:

  • scientific predictions regarding changes in temperature and precipitation in Pennsylvania;
  • potential impact of climate change on human health, the economy and other sectors; and
  • economic opportunities created by potential need for alternative sources of energy and climate related technologies.

2020 Climate Change Impacts Assessment

The 2020 Climate Change Impacts Assessment projects that every county will continue to get warmer and wetter, with average rainfall and extreme precipitation continuing to increase 8 to 12 percent, particularly in winter and spring, while average temperature rises at least 2.7° F. The report also researched impacts to three specific areas important to Pennsylvania.

Climate Change Impacts on Pennsylvania’s Livestock

  • Pennsylvania’s poultry inventory could more than double in size. Much smaller, but still positive, increases in inventory could occur for beef cattle and for hogs and pigs, but not for dairy.
  • There could be a spatial rearranging of the dairy industry within Pennsylvania. Milk cow inventories in southeast counties that are currently the heart of Pennsylvania’s dairy industry could decline, while inventories in northwest counties could rise. 
  • Quantities of nitrogen and phosphorus in animal manure could increase in almost all of Pennsylvania’s counties, and significantly so in south-central and southeast Pennsylvania if poultry manure is included in the calculations.

Climate Change Impacts on Pennsylvania’s Watershed Management Strategies and Water Quality

  • Increased volumes of runoff from agricultural and urban lands that must be treated to meet TMDLs.
  • Increased variability of runoff events – may need changes in BMPs.
  • Possible change in distribution of point sources and new prioritization of critical watersheds.
  • Management adaptations to address the overall increase in runoff that requires treatment and the reduction in the efficiency of some climate vulnerable BMPs will be required.
  • Climate change will necessitate changes in how BMPs are evaluated (evaluation criteria). In particular, analysis of the resilience to emerging weather risks is needed.
  • The performance of non-structural BMPs is generally less vulnerable to expected climate change but optimal implementation will require new guidance.

Climate Change and Pennsylvania’s Infrastructure

  • Flooding appears to have greatest potential future impact on infrastructure.
  • Drought and extreme heat may pose a threat, however, trends away from thermoelectric power plants requiring water cooling will reduce impacts.
  • Flood-related damage is likely to be primarily localized.
  • Large portions of multiple energy and transportation infrastructures are potentially susceptible to flood damage. SW PA faces additional risk from landslides.
  • Infrastructure adaptation planning occurs at local, regional, and national scales; not always incorporating climate impacts.
  • Impacts of extreme weather on infrastructure varies widely across PA, as does readiness. Some counties facing the greatest impacts are also among PA’s poorest.

2015 Impacts Assessment