Editorial: Storm warnings of another kind in Pa.
Flash floods and overflowing rivers, including the Susquehanna.
Highways and retaining walls damaged, and roads impassable or closed.
Hershey Park and other private and public attractions under water.
Rescues and evacuations.
The 9-some inches of rain that fell in and around York County last week left its mark and did its damage. For reference, 9 inches is more than twice the amount the region normally receives throughout the entire month of July.
Or, as National Weather Service meteorologist Charles Ross succinctly put it, “That’s a lot of rain for five or six days.”
Get used to it.
While it is difficult to connect any single weather event with the effects of climate change, the trend is clear: A warming planet is creating favorable conditions for increasing numbers of more intense rainstorms. That means higher rainfall amounts in shorter periods of time.
Or, as National Weather Service meteorologist John Banghoff prosaically put it, “We’ve experienced what we call an atmospheric river, which is where the pattern sets up and creates a fire hose, bringing moisture from the Atlantic.”
Atmospheric rivers, rain bombs, bomb cyclones. These are all part of the new nomenclature — and the new normal — as increasing amounts of man-made pollutants fill the atmosphere and heat the planet.
For regions like Central Pennsylvania and York County, home to many areas that are already prone to flooding during storms, that’s especially bad news.
Even worse news is the Trump administration’s refusal to acknowledge the problem — while actively exacerbating it.
President Donald Trump’s moves to pull the United States from the global Paris Climate Accord and repeal the Clean Power plan were, like many of his reversals of Obama-era policies, dimwitted and counter-productive.
Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency has likewise turned the clock back on dozens of environmental protections. Rules aimed at protecting air and water quality and land stewardship have been overturned in an all-out assault on environmental progress in the name of ever-increasing profits for energy companies.
Pennsylvania will no doubt be in line for much of the same should Republican candidate Scott Wagner ascend to the governor’s office this November.
His refusal to acknowledge the need to address climate change is exceeded only by his unintentionally hilarious efforts to explain it (body heat? The Earth moving closer to the sun?). And just last month, he scoffed at an 18-year-old who questioned him on the donations his campaign receives from the fossil-fuel industry, dismissing her as “young and naïve.”
That's entrenched and closed-minded.
No, the United States must again engage on the issue of climate change, both domestically and globally. That will require a change of the guard at the top — just one reason that change is sorely needed.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania can do its part.
Gov. Tom Wolf has been a realist, as evidenced by his recent spearheading of $25 million for cleanup at a dozen abandoned coal mines across the state. He has also been a reliable voice of opposition against Trump administration reversals, such as the recent plan to weaken motor vehicle emissions standards.
The state Department of Environmental Protection has likewise been engaged through efforts such as educating and providing financial assistance for mitigating storm-water runoff pollution. And the agency’s Finding Pennsylvania’s Solar Future project aims to increase the state’s use of solar power from a current one percent to as much as 10 percent in a little more than a decade by reducing barriers to solar development.
All wise and necessary steps. Many more are needed.
As last week’s storms reminded central Pennsylvania, the more common, more intense weather systems associated with climate change are not going to go away. So it is incumbent upon all levels of government to face this inarguable fact and, along with businesses and individuals, take serious action to respond to, mitigate and, ultimately, reverse the effects.