PA Department of Environmental Protection Releases the 2020 Pennsylvania Climate Impacts Assessment Update


HARRISBURG, PA — The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) released the 2020 Pennsylvania Climate Impacts Assessment Update, projecting future effects of climate change on livestock, infrastructure, and water quality to support planning to reduce risk to communities and the economy across the state.

“DEP joins many others this week in celebrating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day with a focus on climate action,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “Effective decision making for Pennsylvania’s future is decision making that accounts for the changes that are likely to happen if we don’t reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meets the need to manage them. The Climate Impacts Assessment presents a detailed picture of these changes in several key areas.”

Governor Tom Wolf has identified climate change as the most critical environmental threat facing the world and in 2019 set a statewide goal to lower greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.

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Produced for DEP by the Penn State University Environment and Natural Resources Institute, the Climate Impacts Assessment uses state and federal data to show Pennsylvania has experienced a nearly 2° F rise in average temperature, an approximately 10 percent increase in average annual rainfall, and increased frequency of extreme precipitation since 1901.

It’s projected that every county will continue to get warmer and wetter, with average rainfall and extreme precipitation continuing to increase 8 to 12 percent, particularly in winter and spring, while average temperature rises at least 2.7° F.

Pennsylvania’s poultry inventory could double in size, based on comparison with livestock and climate data from counties across the United States where current temperatures are what’s projected for Pennsylvania in the future.

Small increases are likely in beef cattle and hog and pig inventories. Although the dairy cattle inventory is anticipated to remain roughly the same, a shift in the dairy industry from southeast to northwest counties could occur.

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As rainfall increases, the nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) and sediment runoff pollution carried into streams and rivers from agricultural and urban areas will increase. This underscores the need for strategically chosen and located stormwater best management practices (BMPs). Nonstructural BMPs, such as wetlands and open areas, will be less vulnerable than structural ones.

Landscape responses to climate change will vary across the state, making it important to identify critical sediment and nutrient pollution sources and target cost-effective and climate-resilient BMPs there. BMPs that promote resilience in agriculture and keep soil and water in local watersheds will have increasing value.

Localized intense flooding is likely to be the primary stress on Pennsylvania’s energy, transportation, and water infrastructures. Large sections of Pennsylvania’s infrastructure are in areas that are susceptible to flooding and landslides.

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The degree of infrastructure adaptive planning currently varies among utilities and municipalities, and more coordination will be needed for better resilience across the socioeconomic range.

DEP released the latest Pennsylvania Climate Action Plan in 2019 and will draw on this new impacts assessment in developing a 2021 plan.

For more take-aways and the complete Pennsylvania Climate Impacts Assessment Update, as well as earlier impacts reports that look at additional sectors, visit the climate impacts web page. For the Climate Action Plan, and more materials on climate change in Pennsylvania, visit

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