PITTSBURGH - Pennsylvania last week quietly released an updated report on what impact future climate change may have on the state, about 18 months after it was due.
The Pennsylvania Climate Impacts Assessment Update was posted to an open database, but state officials issued no news release.
The report paints a mixed picture of possible impacts, with many uncertainties for after 2050.
Penn State University forestry expert Marc McDill, who worked on the report, said the evidence is "very, very strong" that Pennsylvania's climate is going to change significantly. He said that by 2050 the state's climate will be more like Virginia's and by 2100 it will be similar to what Georgia's is now.
For forests, the biggest danger is from insects and invasive species, McDill said: "There's a lot of evidence that warmer climate will make insect problems more severe."
But McDill noted that visible changes are just beginning. The future "could be a lot worse, or it could be less bad" than the report suggests, he said.
The report says greenhouse gases from humans are mostly to blame for temperatures that already have climbed since about 1950. It predicts still more temperature increases but uncertainly over rainfall. The temperature changes could have a significant impact on Pennsylvania's wildlife, rivers, lakes and aquatic ecosystems, but the economic impact is likely to be focused on certain industries, with a small effect on the overall economy and to public health.
For example, more people may die from heat waves, but fewer will die from extreme cold. There may be more extreme weather in different seasons, including droughts and floods.
The Pennsylvania Climate Change Advisory Committee's chairwoman, Christina Simeone, who is with the environmental group Penn Future, said the delay in releasing the report and the lack of a news release are part of a pattern.
"That suggests this administration does not believe that climate change exists," Simeone said of Republican Gov. Tom Corbett's team, despite overwhelming consensus from top scientists around the world who say they are about as certain that global warming is a real, man-made threat as they are that cigarettes kill.
Corbett's energy executive, Patrick Henderson, wrote in an email that Simeone's allegations are unfounded.
Corbett "is committed to advancing policies that are in the best environmental, health and economic interest of Pennsylvanians," Henderson said, adding that as far as the press release, "Sometimes the press office is just overloaded with other work."
Simeone agreed that there are uncertainties over climate change impacts on Pennsylvania but said government should help the people and industries that will be most affected find ways to adapt.
"There's going to be winners and losers in climate change," she said.