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Pennsylvania Faces More than Eight Degree Increase in Temperature over Next 100 Years

Analysis by The Nature Conservancy Shows Climate Change Threatens Farming and Wildlife in Pennsylvania


???????, PA | August 28, 2009

Pennsylvania could heat up by eight degrees from climate change by the end of the century – threatening the state’s $5.4 billion wildlife recreation industry, increasing the risk of heat-related deaths and threatening the volume and quality of the water supply in the Delaware River, according to a new analysis by The Nature Conservancy.

“From the food we put on the table to the animals that make our state unique, this study shows that none of us is immune if temperatures continue to rise as projected. We can now see that climate change will directly hit us here in Pennsylvania, in our own back yards,” said Nels Johnson, conservation director for The Nature Conservancy in Pennsylvania. “If we do not act immediately, our children and grandchildren will live in a very different world than we do today. The weather and landscapes that have made Pennsylvania so special will be nearly unrecognizable in 100 years.”

Pennsylvanians can see projections on how monthly temperatures and precipitation may change for their home state or other parts of the world by visiting Climate Wizard, a new web tool that, for the first time, allows people to use an interactive map to explore past and projected climate change data on their computers. Using Climate Wizard, users can zoom in on a specific location to quickly see how temperatures and precipitation may change by month, season or year under different emission scenarios.

The Conservancy’s temperature analysis looked at three emission scenarios based on low, medium and high rates of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere over the next 100 years. Under the highest emission scenario, which assumes carbon dioxide levels will continue to grow, Pennsylvania’s average annual temperature would spike by 8.7 degrees F.

Even under the lowest emission scenario, which assumes the unlikely possibility that the amount of carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere each year will decrease, Pennsylvania will heat up by 6 degrees F.

Scientists warn that a global temperature increase of the 3.6 degrees F (2 degrees C) or more will lead to irreversible impacts to the Earth’s lands, waters, wildlife and human communities.

Among the impacts Pennsylvania would feel under the temperature increases projected by the Conservancy’s analysis are:

  • Suitable habitat for Pennsylvania’s state tree — the eastern hemlock — is projected to decrease by as much as 50 percent in some parts of the state, which is a threat not only to the beauty of Pennsylvania’s river gorges but also to native fish, such as brook trout, because hemlocks provide important shade to keep rivers cool.
  • Changes in forest composition and migration patterns could drive away the animals favored by Pennsylvania’s 1 million hunters, 994,000 anglers, and 3.9 million wildlife-watchers, who together contribute $5.4 billion to Pennsylvania’s economy.
  • Changes in temperature, precipitation and sea level from climate change could alter the flow and salinity of the Delaware River and estuary, leading to a reduced water supply for the people of Philadelphia.
  • Cities can expect a dramatic increase in the number of 100-plus degree days and worsening air quality — life-threatening problems for the elderly and residents with asthma and other respiratory illnesses.
  • Rising temperatures threaten Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry by making the climate inhospitable to some crops (including corn), increasing heat stress in dairy cattle, and encouraging the northward movement of damaging agricultural pests.

“This clearly demonstrates that Congress must act to lower our emissions immediately,” said Johnson. "We still have time to act, but it’s running out.”

The U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote on energy and climate legislation this fall.

Climate Wizard was developed by The Nature Conservancy, the University of Washington and the University of Southern Mississippi.


The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org

Contact information

Randall Edwards
The Nature Conservancy
(614) 339-8110
(614) 787-5545 (cell)

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