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Summary of State Agency Action

The Pennsylvania Climate Adaptation Planning Report (“2011 Plan”) includes approximately 87 discrete goals related to climate change adaptation. These goals address impacts in the following sectors: agriculture, biodiversity, emergency preparedness, forestry, infrastructure, public health, and water. This page describes some of the progress Pennsylvania state agencies are making related to goals in each of these sectors.

Agriculture

Agricultural goals in Pennsylvania’s 2011 Plan include promoting management strategies for agricultural water use; addressing threats posed by invasive species; enhancing crop and livestock diversity; providing farmers with technical assistance; assessing the sustainability and security of the state’s food and agricultural future in consideration of climate change; and expanding regional agricultural preservation and planning initiatives.

In September 2015, Governor Tom Wolf signed Executive Order 2015-12 establishing the Governor’s Food Security Partnership, addressing goals in the 2011 Plan regarding agricultural resilience. The partnership includes representatives from the departments of Aging, Agriculture, Community and Economic Development, Education, Health, and Human Services. The primary goal of the partnership is to promote coordination and communication among government agencies and entities in the private sector, such as farmers, to provide food to all Pennsylvanians, addressing climate-related food insecurity.

To implement goals related to farmland preservation, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Bureau of Farmland Preservation publishes an Annual Report on Farmland Preservation, detailing the actions the bureau is undertaking to assist farmers and landowners to preserve their land. The Bureau of Farmland Preservation’s actions aim to make farming more resilient to changing environmental conditions. In 2016, the Bureau of Farmland Preservation also created an interactive map to display farmland conservation efforts in the state to show the state’s results in promoting agricultural resilience. It also oversees the Clean and Green Tax Program, which, as of 2016, has helped conserve over 9,800,000 acres of commonwealth forest and farmland while also providing tax savings for landowners.

To address goals related to increasing crop diversity to enhance the resilience of the agricultural sector to a changing climate, in 2016, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture launched the Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program for the 2017 and 2018 growing season (also in response to Governor Tom Wolf’s signing of the Industrial Hemp Research Act, Number 92). The pilot program was developed to research the value of industrial hemp as an alternative crop that can be used for clothes and animal feed, as part of state research supporting opportunities to enhance crop diversity in the face of a changing climate.

Biodiversity

The goals in Pennsylvania’s 2011 Plan related to biodiversity call for a climate vulnerability and risk assessment for the state’s ecosystems and habitats; the development of plans to protect vulnerable species and habitats; and the development of a statewide monitoring and research network to monitor changes to species and habitats.

To implement these goals, the Pennsylvania Game Commision and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission updated the Pennsylvania State Wildlife Action Plan (plan) in 2015. The plan outlines a 10-year vision for managing Pennsylvania’s fish, wildlife, and habitats in the face of climate change. The plan assesses current habitat conditions, environmental threats to wildlife, conservation actions for addressing threats, and approaches for monitoring species and habitats amid a changing climate. Chapter 3 discusses how climate change directly affects natural resources and the growing threats of a changing climate on the health of fish and wildlife in the Commonwealth.

To address goals in the 2011 Plan related to combating invasive species, Governor Tom Wolf issued with Executive Order No. 2017-07 reestablishing the Governor’s Invasive Species Council in 2017 (which was initially established in 2004 through Executive Order No. 2004-1). The council's main purpose is to develop invasive species action plans, advise the Governor on invasive species policy development, and coordinate interagency response to invasive species threats. The council includes representatives from seven state agencies and non-governmental organization with the common purpose of identifying invasive species of concern that could potentially threaten the state’s natural and agricultural resources and industries.

In June 2018, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), in partnership with the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science, released the Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Plan to assess the state’s public lands’ vulnerability to climate change, and identify key actions the department should take to make state parks more resilient. The plan, an update of the September 2015 DCNR and Climate Change: Planning for the Future, details 123 actions the agency can take to study, protect, restore, and better manage state lands to make the Commonwealth more resilient to potential impacts from a changing climate, such as higher temperatures, and range shifts for wildlife and plant species. DCNR is currently in the process of implementing this 2018 plan.

Pennsylvania's 2011 Plan also called for the collection of data in order to establish baseline conditions for vulnerable species. The Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program actively maintains a Climate Change Vulnerability Index that assesses the exposure and vulnerability to climate impacts of 85 species in Pennsylvania.

 

Coasts & Oceans

Pennsylvania’s Plan does not include any specific goals or actions that relate to the Coasts and Oceans sector.

Forestry

Forestry goals in Pennsylvania’s 2011 Plan include recommendations that the state assess key habitat areas; secure funding to protect and restore vulnerable areas; expand programs to assist and reward landowners for protecting critical migration corridors; ensure the maintenance of plantings in urban settings; effectively monitor ecological indicators; and expand programs for insect and pathogen threats to the state’s forests.

To implement these recommendations, in 2016, the Department of Conservation of Natural Resources (DCNR) Bureau of Forestry revised the State Forest Resource Management Plan to include consideration of climate-related impacts to the state’s forests. The plan is the primary instrument that the Bureau of Forestry uses to plan, coordinate, and communicate management of the state’s forest system. The revised plan includes a new section on how DCNR can address climate-related impacts on forests, and also identifies forest health management activities for critical habitats, vulnerable species, and invasive plants. Additionally, the updated plan added a new chapter on forest fires that will be exacerbated by climate change, and the plan includes information about forest fire management techniques.

Additionally, the DCNR Bureau of Forestry monitors Pennsylvania’s forests for invasive insects and diseases, protecting trees when necessary. The DCNR Bureau of Forestry conducts an annual aerial survey to detect risks to trees including mortality, defoliation, and foliage discoloration, and annually releases a map of the results. The information is then used to determine the extent of damage for insects and diseases of concern, anticipate future outbreaks, and make management recommendations.

Infrastructure

Goals in Pennsylvania’s 2011 Plan related to infrastructure include recommendations that the state enhance the resiliency of roads and transportation infrastructure to rising temperatures and erosion, and modify infrastructure labor schedules to reduce the impact of higher temperatures on workers and materials.

In April 2017, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) conducted an Extreme Weather Vulnerability Study to assess the consequences and potential impacts of extreme weather events and identify funding priorities and strategies to improve the resilience of the state’s transportation system. This study was a response to recent intense storm events in 2014 and 2016 that resulted in flooding and damages to Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure.

Public Health & 

Emergency Preparedness

Public Health

Public health goals in the 2011 Plan addresses include recommendations that the state develop proactive heat wave, drought, and flood response plans; increase the availability and quality of climate-related public health data; and promote interdisciplinary collaboration among health professionals and environmental scientists to better understand the linkage between climate change and disease.

To better understand the public-health impacts from climate change, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, in partnership with the Drexel University School of Public Health, released Preparing for Public Health Emergencies: A Planning Aid for Public Health and Healthcare Professionals in February 2013. The first part of the guide describes the major impacts of possible manmade and natural hazards, with respect to their impact on human health and healthcare infrastructure. The second section of the report summarizes the major impacts and the resulting public health consequences and then provides response measures and preparedness strategies to combat hazards. In regards to natural and climate-related hazards, the report examines the effects of flooding, extreme storms and temperatures, infectious diseases, and wildfires on public health, and then provides preparedness strategies for public health professionals.

Emergency Management

The 2011 Plan’s goals related to emergency preparedness include recommendations that the state increase communication between service providers and state agencies.

In October 2013, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency updated the state’s 2006 All-Hazard Mitigation Plan. The plan was developed for the purpose of identifying and classifying future natural and man-made hazards in the Commonwealth; determining the potential impact of those hazards; addressing what should be done to reduce or eliminate impacts; and improving community resilience following a disaster event. The updated plan includes a vulnerability analysis of many climate-related hazards to the state, including drought, extreme temperature and storms, floods, invasive species, and wildfire, and those hazards’ effects on certain sectors, such as health and infrastructure.

In February 2015, Governor Tom Wolf signed the Pennsylvania State Emergency Operations Plan, which is designed to assist state-level leaders and emergency management personnel in handling manmade or climate-related disasters. This plan delegates responsibilities to the various state agencies and prescribes coordination and communication structures that will ensure optimum efficiency when allocating limited state assets. While the Pennsylvania All-Hazard Mitigation Plan identifies hazards and conducts an analysis on the potential impact of hazards, the State Emergency Operations Plan provides an organizational structure for government agencies to prepare for and respond to emergency situations.

 

Water

The 2011 Plan’s water-related goals are primarily aimed at increasing the sustainability of water use and management. Goals include integrating vulnerability assessments into water management planning approaches; promoting statewide water conservation and efficiency; developing climate adaptation strategies for drinking water and wastewater treatment facilities; and supporting state programs to effectively address floods and manage land to reduce flood potential.

DEP Office of Water Resources Planning is updating the 2009 Water Plan, as required by the Water Resources Planning Act of 2002, to address the climate-related impact on water resources and management operations. The 2009 plan reports on the inventory of water availability, includes an assessment of current and future water use demands and trends, assessments of resource management alternatives, and proposed methods of implementing actions. It also analyzes problems and needs associated with specific water resource usage such as navigation, stormwater management, and flood control. The new plan will also include: open access to and sharing of water use data by water resources decisionmakers and the public through the creation of web-based tools, forming statewide and regional committees, and finalizing the Critical Water Planning Area Resource Plans prepared in the 2009 plan.

(Research last updated: July 13, 2018).

 
 
 
 

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