Philadelphia, PA – Eighty-four percent of Pennsylvanians live in counties recently affected by weather-related disasters, according to an interactive online map [http://www.pennenvironment.org/page/pae/extreme-weather-map] released today that crunches data from the federal government. Scientists say global warming is already exacerbating many extreme weather events and their impacts.
“From massive snow storms to heat waves in the summer, dangerous weather is already hitting close to home,” said Elowyn Corby, Global Warming Advocate with PennEnvironment. “And without action to stop climate change, scientists say these extreme weather events—and their impact on Pennsylvanians—will only get worse.”
PennEnvironment researchers, who created the online map, Hitting Close to Home, found that since 2010, extreme weather disasters have hit counties that house more than 10 million Pennsylvanians.
Scientists predict unchecked global warming will increase the severity or the frequency of many extreme weather events. For example, storms like Superstorm Sandy are likely to be more powerful and deliver more rainfall because of warmer temperatures.
In addition to statistics for recent weather-related disasters, the map includes case studies and personal stories from Americans impacted by extreme weather events across the country, including Pennsylvanians.
Jessica Dame of Harrisburg submitted her account of living in Harrisburg during the flash floods of 2011 to the interactive map: “Roadways were flooded, keeping vehicles from the road and stranding citizens at home and work. Central Dauphin Senior High School is by a creek that overflowed into the roads. Most of the school was not allowed to leave and we were stuck there until almost 5 pm. Students at an elementary school in the same district were forced to stay overnight.”
“More frequent and more severe extreme events, from heat waves to blizzards to tropical storms, will pose challenges to Philadelphia’s infrastructure, services, businesses, and residents,” said Christine Knapp, director of sustainability for the City of Philadelphia. “The City of Philadelphia is committed to working with our state and federal partners to continue reducing carbon pollution and preparing for these extremes.”
The map reveals that nationwide, more than 57 million Americans live in counties that were affected by more than five weather disasters over the last five years, while counties housing 97 percent of the population experienced declared disasters at least once.
The analysis comes in the wake of the Supreme Court’s stay of the Clean Power Plan, the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants that also incentivize the development of wind, solar, and other forms of clean energy. Pennsylvania has said it will continue to move forward with developing its own plan to meet the requirements of the Clean Power Plan.
“Ultimately, we’re confident that the Clean Power Plan will survive polluter attacks in the courts,” said Corby. “But in the mean time, states should be moving forward with clean energy solutions – for the sake our climate, our air, and our health – just as Governor Wolf and his administration are doing.”
Since the pre-industrial era, average global temperature has increased by nearly a degree Celsius. In Paris this past December, nearly 200 nations reached a global accord to limit warming to no more than 2 degrees, and aim to hold it at 1.5 degrees, which is a benchmark scientists say is critical to avert even more severe and frequent weather disasters.
“To meet our commitment in Paris and avoid the most dangerous climate impacts,” concluded Corby, “ultimately we need to transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy.”