Great Lakes Pennsylvania Solutions

Great Lakes Communities and Ecosystems at RiskThe Regionspacer
Confront the Challenge
• Climate in the Region
• The Report
• Technical Background
• For Teachers

Explore the Impacts
• Overview
• Migrating Climates
• Water Resources
• Sense of Place

Discover the Solutions
• Overview
• Solutions where we Live
• Reducing our Emissions
• Managing our Response
• Ten Personal Solutions

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Climate Change in Pennsylvania
Climate Projections
Human Health
Property and Infrastructure
Recreation & Tourism
Water Supply & Pollution
Climate Solutions
Resources & Links

Climate Change Solutions
Climate change is occurring mainly as a result of humans adding large amounts of heat-trapping gases, such as carbon dioxide, to the atmosphere. The good news is that practical solutions exist today to address this growing problem, and people in Pennsylvania can help in many ways. Although some warming is inevitable—as past heat-trapping gas emissions will continue to have a warming effect for decades—the most extreme outcomes for Pennsylvania can be avoided if responsible measures are taken locally, nationally, and internationally.

Three complementary approaches are needed to address the challenges that a changing climate poses to Pennsylvania:

Reduce heat-trapping emissions
Powerplants and motor vehicles alone account for over 50 percent of total heat-trapping emissions in Pennsylvania. Identifying the major sources of heat-trapping gas emissions thus helps Pennsylvania to tackle the problem at the source and to find the most appropriate ways for Pennsylvania to minimize its contribution to this global problem. By improving the efficiency of our appliances and vehicles, pursuing smart growth strategies, improving land-use practices, and supporting renewable energy generation, we can significantly reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases.

Pennsylvania has taken the lead with 12 other states to enact a minimum renewable electricity standard. Pennsylvania has also taken the lead in establishing a green house gas registry by requiring large carbon dioxide emitters to report emission levels to the Department of Natural Resources. Many other emitters have also voluntarily reported emissions in order to receive future credits for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And finally, citizens of Pennsylvania may choose their utility company, allowing consumers the chance to elect utilities that provide "green" power generated from renewable resources.

These steps, along with the state climate change action plan, are the first in implementing energy policies that promote renewable energy. Policy at the national level would also support the development of renewable energy sources, further encouraging investment in energy-efficient technologies and cleaner burning fossil fuels. These global warming solutions have several other valuable benefits including cleaner air, economic development, and job growth.

In 2003, New York's Governor George E. Pataki initiated a solutions process with a regional scope-currently known as The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI or "ReGGIe"). RGGI is a cooperative effort by 9 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions (one of the primary heat-trapping gasses). The RGGI participating states—with Pennsylvania currently included as an observer—will be developing a regional strategy for controlling greenhouse gases, which are not bound by state or national borders. Central to the initiative is the implementation of a multi-state cap-and-trade program, with a market-based emissions trading system. The proposed program, which will require electric power generators in participating states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, is planned to be designed by April 2005.

To learn more about these and other solutions download Reducing Heat-Trapping Emissions in Great Lakes Region.

For Additional Information from UCS, see
UCS Clean Energy Program
UCS Clean Vehicles Program
State Clean Energy Maps and Graphs
Renewable Energy and Agriculture: A Natural Fit
Clean Energy Blueprint Benefits Farmers and Rural Economies

Minimize human pressures on the environment
Reducing or minimizing human pressures on the environment often results in long-term economic benefits that outweigh the initial cost. Moreover, reducing or minimizing pressures from land use, pollution, and other disturbances on the environment takes away some of the stresses that make ecosystems more vulnerable to climate change. Thus, while we and the environment benefit immediately from reducing these pressures, protective measures are indispensible in helping ecosystems and people become more resilient in the face of climate change. These benefits include flood protection, human health benefits from water and air purification, improved agricultural and forestry productivity, water supply security, safeguarding of habitat for native plants and animals, aesthetic benefits, and recreational opportunities. The following are key strategies for reducing human stresses:

  • Air Quality Improvements
  • Water Quality Protection and Demand/Supply Management
  • Urban and Land Use Planning
  • Habitat Protection and Restoration

To learn more about each of these options, see:
Managing our Response, or download
Minimizing Human Pressures on the Environment.

Plan for the impacts of climate change
Although there are many steps we can take to reduce the severity of climate change, some changes are already underway and will continue for decades or more. Therefore, society must begin planning and preparing to manage future impacts that cannot be avoided. Such actions include: protecting wetlands—which provide key flood control services and improve local water quality; examining adaption options in the local fisheries, agricultural and forestry practices, as well as improvements in the health care system to accommodate changes in the climate and environment.

Changes in climate variability and weather extremes will need to be taken into consideration when implementing emergency management plans, zoning, and building codes. Resources will be needed to provide increased relief from the heat to the very young, the poor, and those whose health is already compromised. Such measures are particularly important in urban areas. These and other steps for planning for climate change in the Great Lakes region are highlighted in Managing the Impacts.

For a graphical overview of various solution options, please see the Solutions where we Live feature.

Photo Credits:
Canvasback -- National Park Service, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
Pennsylvania Farm -- Courtesy of USDA.
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We Need Your Support
to Make Change Happen

We can reduce global warming emissions and ensure communities have the resources they need to withstand the effects of climate change—but not without you. Your generous support helps develop science-based solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.