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Pennsylvania's state bird could lose the entirety of its habitat over the next few decades unless the country and state immediately address climate change, according to a study released last week.

Although very rare in York County, the ruffed grouse is facing the destruction of its habitat as rain intensifies, temperatures rise and fires become more common, warns a study conducted by the National Audubon Society.

"The habitat isn’t going to disappear overnight, but over years it could," said Andrew Wolfgang, vice president of the York County Audubon Society.

More: Once interested, House Republicans blast Wolf over RGGI

Red flags of habitat loss arise once there is a 1.5-degree Celsius — or roughly 2.7-degree Fahrenheit — increase in air temperature, which is expected to occur in the imminent future if nothing is done to further combat climate change.

At that point, areas such as the region north of State College, where many ruffed grouse are located, would maintain their stable habitat. But the remainder of the state would likely be uninhabitable for the bird.

Furthermore, without immediate action, air temperatures are expected to increase by 2 degrees Celsius by 2050 and 3 degrees Celsius by 2080. Those increases would likely force the bird north and out of the state, potentially crossing the U.S.-Canada border, according to the study.

Other birds that are more common in York County, such as the wood thrush and scarlet tanager, could very well share the same fate, Wolfgang said.

The climate change debate in Pennsylvania has been ramping up this year. If some recent proposals come to fruition, measures could be taken to manage the temperature increase at 1.5 degrees Celsius or at least slow down further increases.

Most recently, Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order to bring the state into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-trade program joined by nine states that puts a cap on carbon dioxide emissions and allows companies to buy emissions credits.

The money from auctioning off the credits is then used to invest in clean energy. Pennsylvania Republicans, especially in the House, are vehemently opposing the measure they say would harm the economy and environment.

Wolf earlier this year also set a goal to reduce carbon emissions by 26% by 2025 and 80% by 2050.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.

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